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Separation Between Church and State

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In the 1960 presidential election, Richard Nixon’s Republican base warned the nation that if John F. Kennedy were to be elected the Pope would run the country. It was thought that because Kennedy was Catholic his first allegiance would be to the Pope. Oh how times have changed. Now the Republicans are invoking Catholic social teachings as the basis for their policy choices. Just recently Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) commented that his budget proposal was based upon the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. Of course, there are several problems with Mr. Ryan’s use of subsidiarity the two most prominent being that he misunderstands subsidiarity and he has violated the separation between church and state.

Mr. Ryan is correct in suggesting that subsidiarity serves the basis of federalism, but wrong when he said that government is not supposed to help the poor because it conflicts with subsidiarity. To understand subsidiarity it would be helpful to quote encyclical letter Quadragesimo Anno par. 79 (1931) from Pope Pius XI. “[I]t is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.” The principle of subsidiarity, then, allows the government to step in when other associations have failed to provide sufficient help to the members of the body social. When individuals and voluntary organizations fail to provide a proper order, the government may step in, but not before. Mr. Ryan’s position seems to be that the government can never step in. That is in direct contradiction to what Pope Pius XI wrote in 1931.

But this is one of the reasons why we have a separation between church and state; to prevent politicians from using religion for their political ends and distorting religious teachings for political gain. When politicians act as theologians we risk blurring the line between religion and politics. When church and state become one, dissent can be silenced through the power of the state and the state decides what is an acceptable religious view and what is not. Those who object to a particular policy can be silenced on the grounds that their policy preferences are blasphemous.

And we don’t need to look back 52 years to 1960 to see Republicans proclaim the importance of the separation of church and state. During the debate over whether religious organizations should be excluded from having to cover birth control for their employees it was the Republicans, with Mr. Ryan outfront, who argued against such a measure as it violated the separation of church and state.

What this seems to suggest is that Republicans, at least those like Mr. Ryan, think the government should not interfere with religion but religion can interfere with government. But this formulation misconstrues the separation doctrine. There cannot be separation if one is allowed to meddle in the affairs of the other while the other is not. Keeping the two separate is what is required which means neither should meddle in the affairs of the other. James Madison, architect of the constitution and author and steward of the Bill of Rights, was a proponent of religious liberty and understood that once the government began using its power to interpret and propagate religious doctrine danger was close at hand. It was not only his books that taught him this but his experience as a youth seeing Baptist ministers imprisoned in Culpepper County, VA for publishing their religious views. At the time the Anglican Church was the legally established church in Virginia and objected to Baptist teachings. The power of the state was employed against the ministers at the urging of Anglicans. Madison would never forget the sight of the imprisoned Baptist ministers and would therefore never lose sight of what would happen if religion and politics were allowed to mingle.

There is no doubt that many people’s political views are informed by their religion. Not only would it be impossible to legislate against people bringing those views to bear on policy debates it would be undesirable to do so. People’s moral compass should guide their politics. The separation between church and state is violated when politicians begin using the government as a vehicle for their religious views or when the government uses its power of coercion to shape the policies of religious institutions.

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About Kyle Scott

  • Clavos

    The Constitution and Bill of Rights say nothing about separation of church and state.

    The First Amendment says, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….”, while Article VI only notes, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    The concept of separation stems from a letter Jefferson wrote to the Danbury (CT) Baptist Association in January of 1802, wherein he first coined the phrase (and arbitrarily tacked it on to the end of the First Amendment’s notation regarding Congress making no law,etc.) In his letter, Jefferson wrote, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” (Emphasis added)

    Lamentably, Jefferson’s somewhat arrogant tinkering with the First has been,over the years, an importance beyond its significance and has unfortunately led to downright silliness, as in the banning of religious displays on religious holidays, the prohibition against school prayer, even when nondemoninational, etc.

    And yet, the United States continues to emblazon on its coinage a childish avowal to our trust in a completely fictional character.

    We would be more in keeping with Mr. Jefferson’s personal admonishment if we were to inscribe “In The Tooth Fairy We Trust” on our money.

    But of course, the US and its citizens have never been rational about religion…

  • The money quote:

    “What this seems to suggest is that Republicans, at least those like Mr. Ryan, think the government should not interfere with religion but religion can interfere with government.”


  • From Thomas Jefferson: (1743-1826; author, Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom; 3rd U.S. President, 1801-1809):

    “All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution.”

    “I may grow rich by an art I am compelled to follow; I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgment; but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve and abhor.

    “Where the preamble [of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom] declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting the words “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.

    “Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”

    “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” (Thomas Jefferson, as President, in a letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.)

    “History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.”

  • No reference to any god is to be found in the body or in the amendments to the U.S. Constitution unless the most vague phrases are stretched completely out of context.

    Article VI, Section 3, The Constitution of the United States:
    The senators and representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

  • If we glance back at our early history, the reasons for placing religious freedom in the First Amendment may become clearer. The quest for that freedom was one of the motives for emigration to America, but not just for those who wanted to be free to practice their own faith. A surprising majority of colonial Americans were not part of any religious community. Even in New England, research shows, not more than one person in seven was a church member. It was one in fifteen in the middle colonies and fewer still in the South, according to the historian Richard Hofstadter.

  • President Andrew Jackson did refuse to order a national day of prayer during a cholera epidemic (1832).

  • Abraham Lincoln, 16th U. S. President and a founder of the republican party

    “When the Know-Nothings get control, it [the Declaration of Independence] will read: “All men are created equal except negroes, foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer immigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

  • The constitutional integration of a church and a state is precisely what is meant by the phrase “establishment of religion”, so Clavos is simply wrong there.

    The First Amendment was written to distance the US Constitution from that of the UK, which does have a state religion (but where, oddly enough, it rarely seems to be an issue); similarly, Article VI was also a reaction to UK law, which states that the head of state (the monarch) cannot be a Catholic – or marry one.

    As far as Ryan and co. are concerned, they do indeed seem to be absolutely fine with the Catholic Church interfering in government – as long as it suits them. We all witnessed the dancing in the streets that took place when the bishops’ conference decided to have a grumble about the Obamacare contraception mandate. Yet when that very same conference, and a couple of other groups of Catholic clergy, criticized the Ryan budget recently, they couldn’t throw their toys out of the pram fast enough.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    As an atheist, you of all people should be on the front lines defending the separation of church and state.

  • Can you imagine what would happen if Barack Hussein Obama made any of the following statements?

    From: Ulysses S. Grant, 18th U.S. President [1869-1877]
    In a speech to the Army of the Tennessee, Des Moines, Iowa, 1875 he said:
    “Encourage free schools, and resolve that not one dollar of money shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school. Resolve that neither the state nor nation, or both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheistical tenets. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separated.”

    Grant’s message to Congress, December 7, 1875; Congressional Record, Vol. 4, part 7, page 175:
    “I would call your attention to the importance of correcting an evil that, if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land before the close of the Nineteenth century. It is the acquisition of vast amounts of untaxed church property… In a growing country, where real estate enhances so rapidly with time as in the United States, there is scarcely a limit to the wealth that may be acquired by corporations, religious or otherwise, if allowed to retain real estate without taxation. The contemplation of so vast a property as here alluded to, without taxation, may lead to sequestration without constitutional authority, and through blood. I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation.”

    From Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th U. S. President [1877-1881
    “We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference.”

    From Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U. S. President [1901-1909]
    “Because we are unqualifiedly and without reservation against any system of denominational schools, maintained by the adherents of any creed with the help of state aid, therefore, we as strenuously insist that the public schools shall be free from sectarian influences, and, above all, free from any attitude of hostility to the adherents of any particular creed.”

    From Warren G. Harding, 29th U. S. President [1921-1923]
    In the experiences of a year of the Presidency, there has come to me no other such unwelcome impression as the manifest religious intolerance which exists among many of our citizens. I hold it to be a menace to the very liberties we boast and cherish.”

    From Alfred E. Smith, Governor of New York and Democratic candidate for President in 1928
    “I believe in absolute freedom of conscience for all men and equality of all churches, all sects, and all beliefs before the law as a matter of right and not as a matter of favor. I believe in the absolute separation of church and state and in the strict enforcement of the Constitution that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I believe that no tribunal of any church has any power to make any decree of any force in the law of the land, other than to establish the status of its own communicants within its own church.”

    (John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. President and a devout Catholic [1961-1963]
    “It is my firm belief that there should be separation of church and state in the United States–that is, that both church and state should be free to operate, without interference from each other in their respective areas of jurisdiction. We live in a liberal, democratic society which embraces wide varieties of belief and disbelief. There is no doubt in my mind that the pluralism which has developed under our Constitution, providing as it does a framework within which diverse opinions can exist side by side and by their interaction enrich the whole, is the most ideal system yet devised by man. I cannot conceive of a set of circumstances which would lead me to a different conclusion.” (Santorum just fainted again)

    “I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute–where no Catholic prelate would tell the President how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

    Jimmy Carter, 39th U. S. President 1977-1981
    “I believe in the separation of church and state and would not use my authority to violate this principle in any way.”

  • Zingzing

    Clavos seems to only be against not allowing religious displays in public/state circumstances. That’s fine. We should be able to put up displays of personal beliefs in those areas, as long as everyone else can as well. Separation of church and state doesn’t mean religion is barred, it means that one religion does not have a monopoly. It shouldn’t be a bare light pole, or a light pole with one advertisement on it, it should be a light pole with as many advertisements as can fit, and no one can say you can’t stick a flyer on that light pole. That that light pole isn’t reflective of the diversity within the community is the community’s problem.

    I think that’s fair. If the light pole doesn’t include you, stick a flyer on it. Or paint 666 on the baby Jesus.

  • Zingzing

    That said, there are certain areas of public life where religion should fuck off. But there are also certain areas where common sense should prevail and stupid religious beliefs should be allowed. If it harms no other, fine. If it harms another in any way, no. That’s fair, right?

  • From the United States Court system and the Supreme Court:

    Christianity is not established by law, and the genius of our institutions requires that the Church and the State should be kept separate… The state confesses its incompetency to judge spiritual matters between men or between man and his maker… spiritual matters are exclusively in the hands of teachers of religion. (U. S. Supreme Court, Melvin v. Easley, 1860)

    Supreme Court Justice Rutledge stated in 1947 that the First Amendment was not designed merely to prohibit governmental imposition of a religion; it was designed to create “a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority….”

    The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government, can openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organization or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.” (Justice Hugo Black, U. S. Supreme Court, Everson v. Board of Education, 1947

    It is a matter of history that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America… By the time of the adoption of the Constitution, our history shows that there was widespread awareness among many Americans of the dangers of a union of Church and State. These people knew, some of them from bitter personal experience, that one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way lay in the Government’s placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious service…. The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say – that the people’s religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office. (Justice Hugo Black, U. S. Supreme Court, in Engel v. Vitale, 1962 decision on school prayer

  • Clavos

    As an atheist, you of all people should be on the front lines defending the separation of church and state.

    I am Glenn.

    See zing’s #12…

    Did you not read the part of my comment in which I ridicule the nation’s motto?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Yes, I did – yet for all the strength of your disbelief, you still choose to be on the side of those who share your conservatism, but who also push to throw doubt on evolution in our schools, and who perennially decry the liberals’ so-called war on “Christianity”, yet submit bill after bill expanding the authority of the state over women’s wombs.

    You’re on the wrong side, friend. The extent to which the Republican party has gone looney-tunes should be a clarion wake-up call to you that something is rotten in the state of Red, that maybe you should consider whether it’s really a good idea to share the political leanings of the residents of the lunatic asylum now that you can see them for what they are.

  • Clavos

    You’re on the wrong side, friend

    In your opinion, perhaps.

    maybe you should consider whether it’s really a good idea to share the political leanings of the residents of the lunatic asylum. ..

    Hmm. I wonder who’s crazy and who isn’t… But in any case, hanging with the crazy people is an upgrade from the rest.

    Don’t forget I’m a conservative. Ergo, I’m crazy, right?

  • Clavos

    Oh, and Glenn:

    I support nothing. My original post on this thread merely pointed out that there is no “separation of church and state” wording in the constitution; nothing else, and certainly no support.

  • Baronius

    “There is no doubt that many people’s political views are informed by their religion.”

    Exactly. Ryan is explaining how his political views are informed by his religion. That doesn’t mean he wants to compel people to practice his religion. He’s explaining the principles that underlie his thinking.

    Most of American history has been motivated by underlying religious principles. The various groups who established the colonies were fleeing persecution, often religious. The impulse to convert the Indian, to free the slave, to outlaw alcohol, to fight the Communist, to promote civil rights and feed the hungry, all of that started in religious communities and underlied the thinking of the majority. Today, President Obama cites the Christian concern for the poor in defending his policies.

    None of those things compel religious belief. An Objectivist can support the Ryan plan because he thinks that it will support property rights. A Muslim can support the war in Afghanistan because he believes it is strategically important. An anti-Muslim can support the war in Afghanistan because he believes it is strategically important. It doesn’t matter why. And that’s the key. A person can support legislation without agreeing with all of the first principles of the bill’s sponsors.

  • Clavos,

    Like it or not, the actual words of the constitution mean exactly what SCOTUS says it means. And so far, they’ve been saying it means “separation of church and state.”

    Since Kyle is a constitutional scholar, now would be a great time to chime in.

  • My original post on this thread merely pointed out that there is no “separation of church and state” wording in the constitution

    And that’s the problem. Because it doesn’t say the specific words “separation of church and state” (even though that’s exactly what it means), religious conservatives like to pretend that there was no such intent.

  • Baronius

    “Mr. Ryan is correct in suggesting that subsidiarity serves the basis of federalism, but wrong when he said that government is not supposed to help the poor because it conflicts with subsidiarity.”

    When did Ryan say that?

  • In fairness, it should be pointed out that the First Amendment refers only to the federal legislature, and to making laws “regarding” Establishment. This is because, at the time the Bill of Rights was adopted, a number of states did have official religions: the federal government was thereby undertaking not to interfere in these Establishment laws.

    So, in theory, there’s nothing to prevent, say, Mississippi from adopting Southern Baptism as its official state religion. In practice, however, it would come a cropper against the Supremacy Clause quicker than you could say “Our Father”.

  • Baronius

    Dread – People on both sides of the aisle interpret the First Amendment for their own advantage. This article interprets it in a way that the Founders wouldn’t have agreed with. So do some of those who downplay the separation of church and state. But pointing out that the phrase doesn’t appear in the Constitution is by no means proof of a twisted agenda, any more than using the phrase to describe the Founders’ intent is proof of a twisted agenda.

    By conflating the rare evangelical theocrat with the mainstream conservative, you find yourself arguing odd things – like Clavos being sympathetic to religion. What would make more sense is to enumerate the different understandings of the American church/state vision, expose the ones that are clearly wrong, and debate among the ones remaining.

  • Baronius: When did Ryan say that?

    He said it in his CBN interview:

    “[The principles of subsidiarity] are very very important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants [sic] of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life. Help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.”

    (To be fair, Kyle did say that this is just his impression of Ryan’s meaning.)

    Ryan is making two completely false assumptions: that government assistance programs keep people in poverty, and that the poor can only better their situation if the government backs away. Having worked for many years on and with a number of welfare programs, I am here to tell you that many of them are specifically designed to help people escape the poverty trap – and that they work.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    “rare evangelical theocrat”????

    Perhaps the theocrats themselves are rare, but the people who support them are NOT rare; otherwise, people like Jerry Falwell would never have had such influence, nor would Pat Robertson or Mike Huckabee. It would be more accurate to say that while evangelicals do not comprise the majority of the Republican party, they certainly wield influence significantly out of proportion with their numbers. This is particularly true in the Republican power base of the South where a certain Mormon presidential candidate lost several states to those who were more, um, palatable to the residents of the Bible Belt.

  • All that research and posting and it might as well have been done in iinvisible ink. Is it any wonder why I wander off of this site for months at a time before I return?

  • Baronius

    Dread, Ryan doesn’t make the assumptions you mention, at least not as blanket assumptions. And the quote you cited doesn’t say that government’s not supposed to help the poor. Let me dare to speculate what Ryan means: that, where possible, a need should be addressed without government; that, where possible, a problem handled by the government should be handled at the lowest level of government; and that, where possible, any method of addressing a need should have as one of its goals the removal of future need. That sentence is consistent with Catholic social teaching, but not dependent on any of its assumptions in order to be a valid approach. So I can’t see how Kyle can claim that Ryan is against all government or violating the separation of church and state.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    Look again at Doc’s words:

    Having worked for many years on and with a number of welfare programs, I am here to tell you that many of them are specifically designed to help people escape the poverty trap – and that they work.

    And in the years following LBJ’s implementation of the Great Society – where the oh-so-socialistic government programs of Welfare and Medicare were introduced – America’s rate of poverty was cut in half.

    If such government programs keep people in poverty (as conservatives claim such are designed to do), then our poverty rate would not have been cut in half with the implementation of Welfare and Medicare – it would have increased and stayed higher.

    But it didn’t, did it?

    Doc is right, and the numbers don’t lie. You might not like Welfare and Medicaid and other forms of social assistance, but they WORK. They don’t work perfectly, and there are some who game the system (see Reagan’s claims of the “welfare queen driving a Cadillac” – that was a strawman made out of whole cloth)…but such failures of the system are the exception rather than the rule.

  • People on both sides of the aisle interpret the First Amendment for their own advantage.

    That is true, Baronius, as they do the Second and every other controversial bit of the Constitution. That isn’t to say that the document doesn’t have a specific intent.

    To me, the First is pretty simple. If you are an officer of the state, you should not be promoting your religion or any religion. (That includes things like religious slogans on money, teacher-led prayers in state schools, forcing people to take an oath on a religious text before testifying in court, etc.) If you are a private citizen, on the other hand – knock yourself out.

    The problem is that most people are not in any sense legal scholars, and don’t understand how to apply the law. For example, my friend’s daughter was once reprimanded at school for saying grace before eating lunch. The Establishment Clause was, in this instance, applied incorrectly, since she was praying privately.

    It was the school, not my friend’s daughter, that was in violation of the First (the Free Exercise clause). Now if it had been a teacher or school administrator trying to lead the entire student body in saying grace, that would have been another matter.

  • Clavos (1st comment)-
    You are certainly correct. But that doesn’t mean it is not a doctrine we traditionally adhere to or one that has been utilized by Republicans in political debates. Through common practice some things do become part of our understanding of the constitution although not specifically mentioned in the constitution–such as judicial review. I’m not supporting or denouncing the practice, just stating how our understanding of the constitution evolves.

  • Baronius

    Dread, would you condemn Ryan for (a) basing his budgetary approach on Catholic social teaching, and/or (b) saying so?

  • Let me dare to speculate what Ryan means: that, where possible, a need should be addressed without government; that, where possible, a problem handled by the government should be handled at the lowest level of government; and that, where possible, any method of addressing a need should have as one of its goals the removal of future need.

    I think the words of a politician who continues to say such things when this is, by and large, how things already work speak more than you’re prepared to admit, Baronius.

  • Baronius @ #31: No and no. If he were to start inserting Bible verses or bits of the Catechism into the text of his budget proposal, that might be more of a concern. What I condemn him for is his placement of ideology over reality.

  • Jet @ #26: I think you’d have done better and got more response if you’d incorporated your research into a reasoned argument rather than just posted a Gish gallop.

  • Baronius

    Dread – Well, you have no faith in his judgement, and Kyle seems to think that he rejects all government, so it makes sense to me that Ryan feels the need to go back to basics in explaining his budget. I wouldn’t think he has to – I wouldn’t think that anyone out there believes he wants to destroy Medicare, for example. But he’s been accused of that. So I guess he has to explain the basics, and articulate that there is no inherent conflict between small-government policies and humanitarianism (for want of a better word).

  • That’s not where I got all the quotes, and how do you add to opinions that you not only completely ompletely agree with, but are from presidents and supreme court justices?

  • Clavos

    Thank you for your reasoned – and reasonable – response, Kyle. You and Dr. Dreadful are notable on these threads for your adherence to those practices.

  • You would begin, Jet, by explaining your purpose in posting them and what your opinion is – of both them and the argument Kyle put forward.

  • It was my impression that the question of whether our founding fathers actualy asserted that it was necessary to have a division between church and state, even though it was not specifically written into the Constitution, therefore I posted quotes, from those who wrote the declaration and constitution to show their attitudes on the subject, later presidents who agreed with that argument for a strong separtation, and quotes from the supreme court to that effect.

    The church has gained more and more political power since the mid-1950s in an attempt to create a christian (southern Baptist) theocracy, to the point of them being a danger ot our freedoms and civil liberties, and they are frequently forcing their outdated 2000-year-old “morals” on those of us who don’t worship, using the common man’s inbred fear of God to get their way, in order to make it appear as though they are God’s “spokesmen”

  • Cannonshop

    #39 worse than you think, Jet-most of those “morals” aren’t 2000 years old, or 1000, or more than a couple centuries old. A lot of them wouldn’t have fit into the Medieval period, nor late Rome, nor any of the various non-roman or pre-roman cultures extant in Europe, Asia, or Africa during that time period.

    hell, they would not have fit in to the moral scene of Israel when it was under Roman Occupation, or before!

    They’re modern constructs driven by social fashions of European origin, mostly from the post-reformation period to the Victorian era, given a coat of misapplied translation paint to lend them the veneer of ‘legitimacy’ they would otherwise lack.

    Essentially proving that when you rope God to Government, you degrade both god, and government.

  • Ah, you mean when the King of England rewrote the Bible and left out half the books and edited the ones he kept to serve his own purposes.

  • Cannonshop

    Oh crap, here it comes…

    (warning, if you don’t get why this is funny to me, you are probably not alone…)

    All this talk about bringing Religion into the business of the state, or the state into the business of religion, reminds me that we have other faiths more akin to the nature of Americans (or, at least, U.S.ians) than the drunken rantings of a Carpenter and his twelve buddies circa the late Roman Empire in Judea.

    For instance, how ’bout we go with some REAL old-time Religion-not that pussified version they have in Iceland, I’m talking about stringing up 900 or so convicts a year for Odin, the All-Father, who sacrificed himself to himself and paid a price for his wisdom…

    or, if you want a more central/south american solution, imagine the fear we could inspire in the Islamic world if we would just dust off, refurbish, and restart the Aztec practices, ripping the hearts out of sacrifices and arranging them decoratively on Pyramids to ensure a good harvest, and think of the sports revenues that could be realized if we just sacrificed the losing teams in the final four…

    yeah, now that’s some good god-juice there, ain’t it?

    At least it would be more in keeping with our TRUE nature, than the mutated, deformed and deranged arrangement of myths, rumours, stories, and apocryphal anecdotes that comprises American Christianity…and face it, folks, the television revenues alone might help the national debt…

    And as an added bonus, it would give the Christians something REAL to bitch about.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    when you rope God to Government, you degrade both god, and government.

    No argument there! Just remember, though, that the three most murderous regimes in human history – Stalin, Hitler, and Mao – were all officially atheist.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Cannonshop –

    As a follow-on, consider the fact that the more someone believes that he or she will be held accountable (by law and/or religion) for his or her actions, the more likely (not in absolute terms, but in likelihood) that he or she will act ethically within the bounds of that law or religion

    Conversely, the more that one is absolutely sure that one will never be held accountable for his or her actions, the less likely one will act ethically within the bounds of law or religion.

    That’s all a grand oversimplification, but generally true…and it means that when it comes to those of us who sincerely follow a religion, we will – within the strictures of said religion – generally act more ethically.

    Just bear in mind, though, the caveat of the phrase “within the strictures of said religion”…for the terrorists of 9/11 were in their own eyes being not just ethical, but holy. But as terrible as their act was, what they did (even if we include all the much greater injustices that happened as a direct result at the orders of oh-so-‘Christian’ George W. Bush) doesn’t begin to hold a candle to what was done in the three atheist regimes I listed in comment #43…because neither Stalin nor Hitler nor Mao believed they would ever be held accountable, not only on this Earth but in any afterlife either.

    And so the sociological observation might be that – psychological differences aside – the degree of ethical behavior will vary in direct proportion to the degree to which legal and religious strictures are enforced by society.

    Hm. There’s something there, but it needs work.

  • Glenn, re your #43, that is rather a false comparison as Judaism, Christianity and Islam aren’t regimes but I wonder how many people have been killed in the name of this three headed concept? Wouldn’t surprise me if it was more than any of those three regimes…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    No, it’s not at all a false comparison, for within most nations there is a religion that the majority follows, and which directly affects at least to some extent the decisions of the leaders of those nations.

    And I heartily invite you to do the research and add up all the people killed in religious strife – for that is part of your claim in your first sentence – and compare it to the totals of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. Here, I’ll even help you out!

    Bear in mind, though, that with pretty much all wars before WWII, the majority of deaths in wars were caused not by the sword or the spear or the musket, but by disease and as such don’t count as deliberate murder. On the other hand, enforced famines such as those by Stalin in the Ukraine and by Mao during his Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward certainly do count as deliberate murder.

    So there you go, Chris – I’ve given you the tools to prove how much more humane atheism is than religion. Have fun!

  • Glenn, the fact that “within most nations there is a religion that the majority follows” has no relevance to the point I was making.

    I took a look at the Wikipedia page you linked to and, even if you accept that the Hitler regime was atheist, which it wasn’t in practice, I don’t see that it makes your case it all but does support mine.

    Once again, your dogma gets in the way of the facts…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    Glenn, the fact that “within most nations there is a religion that the majority follows” has no relevance to the point I was making.

    (1) Actually, yes it quite relevant, and one that you would probably support if you would pay a bit more attention even to recent history. For instance, you could have pointed to the Iran/Iraq War in which both sides used the Shi’a/Sunni schism to drive their armies (and women and children used as cannon fodder) forward. But on the other hand, there’s Pakistan where the local (American-supported) dictatorship must walk a fine line between accepting badly-needed American financial and logistical support while at the same time agreeing with the Sunni populace that America is a very evil and belligerent nation.

    (2) When it comes to whether Hitler was an atheist, he affirmed the role of religion many times in word and text…but I prefer to look at his actions rather than his words:

    In Hitler’s political relations dealing with religion he readily adopted a strategy “that suited his immediate political purposes.” According to Marshall Dill, one of the greatest challenges the Nazi state faced in its effort to “eradicate Christianity in Germany or at least subjugate it to their general world outlook” was that the Nazis could not justifiably connect German faith communities to the corruption of the old regime, Weimar having no close connection to the churches. Because of the long history of Christianity in Germany, Hitler could not attack Christianity as openly as he did Judaism, communism or other political opponents. The list of Nazi affronts to and attacks on the Catholic Church is long. The attacks tended not to be overt, but were still dangerous; believers were made to feel that they were not good Germans and their leaders were painted as treasonous and contemptible. The state removed crucifixes from the walls of Catholic classrooms and replaced it with a photo of the Führer.

    Hitler often used religious speech and symbolism to promote Nazism to those that he feared would be disposed to act against him. He also called upon religion as a pretext in diplomacies. The Soviet Union feared that if they commenced a programme of persecution against religion in the western regions, Hitler would use that as a pretext for war

    Okay? For all practical purposes, Hitler was an atheist, for his deeds outweigh all his many words.

  • Just remember, though, that the three most murderous regimes in human history – Stalin, Hitler, and Mao – were all officially atheist.

    IIRC there’s a historical case to be made that the Mongols offed more than any of those during their era of conquest, and I doubt they were atheists.

    Then again, they probably didn’t care one way or the other.

  • roger nowosielski


    A rare thing indeed. Considering, however, Clavos, the rest of the field, it’s not as much of an accomplishment as you make it out to be. For the past two weeks or so, the range, the depth, and the scope of the liberals’ discussion has been devoted to “let’s get Warren,” which more than amply demonstrates the impoverishment of liberal thought. All these guys operate within a failed and defunct paradigm.

    Never lose sight of that.

  • Zingzing

    Such a hypocrite…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    You know how I always encouraged you to teach English overseas so you could make a decent living and experience life overseas? Forget I ever suggested such – you’d embarrass us (Americans, not liberals). They’d see right through you.

  • roger nowosielski

    @51 &52

    The size of a liberal type of response.

  • zingzing

    @53 do you have anything to say that’s not an attack? or are you what you complain about in #50 (which was pretty funny given the hundreds of comments that have been written over the last week, during which warren’s newest articles have garnered a grand total of 7 comments…)?

    i’m struggling to understand why you’d write something as foolish as #50, unless you are just being vindictive and petty…

  • roger nowosielski

    Wasn’t an attack but an observation about the juvenile level of the liberal type of discussion that permeates most of these pages. It’s like watching toddlers playing in their sandbox.

  • Zingzing

    It was a useless attack, nothing else. If it was an “observation,” it was with one eye closed and a stick up its ass, making the grunting noise that is “Roger comes around to insult people.” Yay, Roger… Your contribution is enlightening and pertinent.

    Why don’t you join the discussion in some meaningful way, rather than shitting all over it? Please? Can we be done with this?

  • roger nowosielski

    Joining your kind of discussion, zing? I don’t think so. As I said, all I see is toddlers playing.

    But do have fun while you’re at it

  • Here’s an observation. Roger’s first comment amply demonstrates the impoverishment of his self esteem. No other reason to show up just to tell the Internet at large he’s so much better than those liberals.

    That you think people were solely coming from a position of “let’s get Warren” shows you aren’t, but feel free to take the side of someone caught plagiarizing if you think that’ll give you the upper hand, oh great intellectual.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Without a doubt, EB. What’s more, it was just a little while ago that he stated he’d moved on from this “petty” stuff. As predicted, that didn’t last long.

  • roger nowosielski

    Of course I moved away from your petty stuff, Jordan. Can’t you tell I am not being engaged? Which doesn’t mean I can’t comment on your nonsense ex cathedra, like it or not.

    El Bicho, whatever you or I or anyone else think of Warren is neither here nor there. I find it significant, however, that for two weeks or longer the gist of the liberal conversation on BC was devoted to Warren. You may think it’s business as usual. I find it pathetic, however, and yes, reflective of the impoverishment of liberal thought.

    Of course, you’re free to disagree.

  • zingzing

    “As I said, all I see is toddlers playing.”

    so you decide to get in the sandbox and shit in it? and you really think you’re better?

    i’m sad i even responded to your stupid, repetitive shit (again). all you seem to do is come in and ruin threads that are puffing along quite nicely. hopefully this one will be able to get back to whatever it was doing before you stuck your stupid, repetitive shit in. and i hope that’s the last i’ll say to you. please, satan, give me the strength.

  • zingzing

    damn you, satan. not even a minute.

    “I find it significant, however, that for two weeks or longer the gist of the liberal conversation on BC was devoted to Warren.”

    do the math, roger. he wrote like an article a day for quite some time. he was by far the most prolific writer on the site. and he writes really, really stupid shit. and plagiarizes.

    “I find it pathetic, however, and yes, reflective of the impoverishment of liberal thought.”

    you do realize that for about the last year and a half, you’ve been doing nothing but harping on liberals in much less concrete terms than the liberal criticisms of warren’s work on this site, correct? will you reflect upon that? of course you won’t. delusional…

  • Clavos

    Forget I ever suggested such – you’d embarrass us (Americans, not liberals).

    I doubt it, though most American tourists are embarrassing while abroad, if for no other reason than they rarely speak the host country’s language.

    And then there’s the loudmouthed auto mechanic from new Jersey who spends all day pointing out how much better everything American is, compared to the foreign counterpart.

    The “Ugly American” is not a myth…

  • roger nowosielski

    I stopped worrying about small shit coming out from the mouths of the resident numbnuts, Clav. Not after the triple bypass I’ve just been through and corteroid artery procedure which left part of my face numb if not paralyzed.

    Zing, sure I’ve been dead set against liberalism for quite some time now. How can I not be since I’ve come to regard it as a form of mental disorder?

  • I’ve been dead set against liberalism for quite some time now. How can I not be since I’ve come to regard it as a form of mental disorder?

    Roger, put the Ann Coulter book down and step away slowly

  • I bet Roger can’t see anything out of his left eye.

  • Here is absolute PROOF that you can’t argue with that the left wing is better than the right wing.

  • Zingzing

    Roger, you are everything you bitch about in number 50. At least admit it.

  • LOL @ Jet.

    Proof positive that if you get rid of the right wing, things come down to earth quite rapidly.

    Seriously, though, you know that’s fake, right? 🙂

  • When do areas of cooperation or collaboration with religious authorities overlap the delegate balance between Church and State or between Caesar and G-d? This is a considerable question which has been debated for centuries.

    I suspect that Nero burned Rome to erase all traces of Jesus Christ and Christianity so that he could be the exclusive G-d or deity.

    The separation between Church and State will be with us literally until the end of time.

    Clearly, President Reagan enlisted the help of the Church in ending the Cold War. More recent presidents have enlisted the help of the Church in defeating Al Qaeda. Where does the fine line cross?

    Perhaps, this is the reason why decisions by the United States Supreme Court could sway back and forth by the narrowest of margins.

  • Costello

    Roger, sorry to hear your recent hospital stay had some complications, butd some of your comments are on the juvenile level so you might want to get off your high horse, or is the anarchist mind hypocritical?

  • roger nowosielski

    Whatever, Costello, but I do find the liberal discussion singularly uninformative, not challenging, and certainly not worthy of engagement.

    If you find my observation either juvenile or hypocritical, so be it.

  • Zingzing

    So what are you doing here, Roger? You can’t stoop so low off your high horse to inform us to why you disagree, so you can only muster the will to arrogantly sneer? Why do you even bother? Sheer boredom? The need to feel superior? Do you get off this or something? You’re about as radical as pea soup. As for your stand on anarchy, it also seems weak and poorly thought out. “the liberal state is dead,” you keep proclaiming, from your social security and medicare blanket… Who are you trying to fool?

  • Costello

    It’s not the observation but your comments that are juvenile and hypocritical. You can have whatever opinion you like about the liberal discussion, but your comprehension of matters has shown to have been inaccurate at time, so did you ever think the disconnect might be on your end?

  • roger nowosielski

    As I said, Costello, whatever. We really have nothing to discuss, do we now?

  • faith hawkins

    ok i will give it to you you can have separation but full separation no partiality, otherwise you are discriminating against us Christians so pull out all your pagan ways because that is a religious belief and if you do not allow them to wear crosses then no Freemason neck-lasses ether. plus you must read this and realize you only replaced a religious view with another so it must go also.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_evolution