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And a Happy George Day to All! November 26, 2011

Posted by Dindy in atheism, Christianity, Religion, Religious Right.
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The Thanksgiving leftovers haven’t even had time to get cold, and already the opening salvos have been fired in the annual war between those Christians who are outraged that people dare to celebrate the Yuletide season without reference to Christ and, well, everyone else. I see at least three posts a day from Facebook friends:

“I’m inviting all my Facebook family and friends to join me in returning to the traditional greeting of “MERRY CHRISTMAS” instead of the politically correct “Happy Holidays”!! If you agree with me, please re-post this message…..MERRY CHRISTMAS! We need Christ back into our lives GOD IS WELCOME IN MY HOUSE.”

This is actually one of the tamer of the Facebook posts floating around. Others are more emphatic, with one person shrilling, “People shouldn’t celebrate Christmas if they aren’t going to recognize Christ!”

Woof. Okay. So you don’t want anyone celebrating Christmas but Christians, but you want everyone to acknowledge and pay homage to YOUR celebration of Christmas. Gotcha!

Let me go on record here as saying I don’t really care what you call it. If someone wants to wish me a happy George Day instead of a Merry Christmas, I’m fine with that. I appreciate the sentiment behind it. Someone wants me to have a happy day. How nice. Not only that, but they want my cat, George, to have a nice day. I’m so glad they care about him, because he really is a very nice cat even if he does keep me awake at night when he does the monster mash on my chest.

I guess that’s where I just really don’t understand the Christians. Why is their happiness about the celebration of Christ’s birth dependent upon everybody else also celebrating that birth? Never mind the fact that Jesus is actually not the reason for the season, that the mid-winter festival was around for centuries before it was co-opted by the Christians who were trying to make their faith palatable to the pagans in northern Europe. For people who are supposed to be immersed in the joy of their savior’s birth, Christians seem to be mighty unhappy people. Instead of being glad that someone is giving them a pleasant greeting, they choose to grind their gears because they are not being wished a “Merry Christmas.”

As an atheist, I never used to mind it when people wished me a Merry Christmas. I admire many of the teachings of Jesus, and I don’t mind taking a day out to celebrate his birthday as a time of joy, love, peace and giving. However, I did think it was nice when merchants and other people started noticing that not all of their customers were Christian and started wishing people “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Now, though, when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” I stop to wonder if they are doing so to make a statement about how their religion should be the only one to be acknowledged. What I used to think of as a pleasant little greeting has been robbed of any nice sentiment it may have had.

Christians lament the “good old days” when nobody complained about being told to have a “Merry Christmas.” Well, there were a lot of things that people never used to complain about—blacks never used to complain about having to drink from separate water fountains, and people never used to complain about eating in restaurants without smoking sections. The world has changed, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that our society here in the United States is made up of people of many different beliefs, or no beliefs. So what if people never used to complain about being subjected to the religious practices of another group? Now that people have complained, it is just plain rude to continue to ignore the fact that other people may not wish to listen repeatedly to exhortations to celebrate a Christian holiday.

There are actually many celebrations that occur during December. Solstice, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Bodhi, Al Hijra, Hogmanay, Omisoka, St. Lucia Day, and La Posada, among others. For any group to insist that their particular holiday be celebrated among all others is not only arrogant, but short-sighted for those merchants who want to convey the message that they value all of their customers, not just the Christian ones.

However, it really is no skin off my nose if you want to wish me a Merry Christmas. I need all the good wishes I can get, so Mele Kalikimaka and a Happy George Day to you too.

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Good News October 3, 2011

Posted by Bill in atheism, Christianity, Constitution, critical thinking, Evolution, Religion, Religious Right, Schools, Science, Uncategorized.
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One of my passions is keeping up with creationist (and I include Intelligent Design here) attempts to  change what science is.    They wish to supplant the reason and evidence that is the basis for good science with faith instead – specifically their faith. 

Sometimes, actually often, it can become discouraging looking at how many battles must be fought to ensure our schools continue to teach good science; listening to all the politicians expressing their ignorance of science by expressing doubts about evolution; and seeing all the letters and forum responses from those who let their religion totally blind their ability to reason and fairly judge evidence. 

For example, consider these quotes from various prominent politicians:

“There are clear indications from our people who have amazing intellectual capability that this didn’t happen by accident and a creator put this in place,”

“Now, what was his time frame and how did he create the earth that we know? I’m not going to tell you that I’ve got the answers to that,” Perry said. “I believe that we were created by this all-powerful supreme being and how we got to today versus what we look like thousands of years ago, I think there’s enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory.”  Governor and Presidential candidate Rick Perry

and

“[Schmidt] knew my position: I believed in the evidence for microevolution – that geologic and species change occurs incrementally over time. But I didn’t believe in the theory that human beings – thinking, loving beings – originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from trees; I believed we came about through a random process, but were created by God.

“But your dad’s a science teacher,” Schmidt objected.

“Yes.”

“Then you know that science proves evolution,” added Schmidt.

“Parts of evolution,” I said.

“But I believe that God created us and also that He can create an evolutionary process that allows species to change and adapt.”

Schmidt winced and raised his eyebrows. In the dim light, his sunglasses shifted atop his head. I had just dared to mention the C-word: creationism. But I felt I was on solid factual ground.”  From “Going Rogue“ by Sarah Palin, conservative commentator (definitely) and Republican Presidential Candidate (who knows). 

I know that I have quoted Republican and conservatives here for my examples, the reason being is that they have the largest numbers of creationists.  However they do not have the exclusive franchise on creationism. 

According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 38% of Democrats also believe that God created the world and all that is in it only 10,000 years ago.   Independents come in at 40%.  Overall almost 40% of Americans are creationists.

This can be readily seen in the many attempts to sneak the teaching of creationism into our public schools.  Every time we review biology textbooks in Texas creationists try to supplant evolution with creationism or at the very least get both taught as if they are both scientifically valid.  And this is just not a Texas thing.

In 2011 so far there have been at least 11 anti-evolution bills presented in various state legislatures.  This includes the states of New Hampshire (actually had to anti-evolution bills submitted), Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, New Mexico, Alabama, Kentucky,  Texas, and Oklahoma (another with two anti-evolution bills submitted).  Louisiana actually passed an anti-evolution bill and so far it has not been repealed. 

And this doesn’t even consider all the creationist activity happening at the local level – school districts, individual schools or even individual teachers. 

So much determined ignorance is enough to make one discouraged at times. 

But then this comes along – a light piercing the gloom of my discouragement.

Believe it or not my good news came from a Christian radio station.  In fact it came from Ken Ham, the President/CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis.   

He and the host interviewing him were lamenting on the sad state of Christian Colleges.  They went on and on about how good Christian families are sending their children to these colleges expecting them to receive a good Christian education and instead find them being taught things that are totally unbiblical. 

Apparently Mr. Ham had a hunch about this and hired the Beemer’s  American Research Group to do a survey of 90 American Christian colleges associated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and who require their professors to sign a personal statement of faith.  In addition over 100 more Christian colleges that were associated with a religious denomination were also surveyed.   What he found shocked him and delighted me.

While most of these college said the right words in their literature – the Bible is the inspired word of God, it is foundational, etc. when they probed further they discovered that their definitions and interpretations of these words differed from that of Ken Ham and many conservative Christians. 

What I found very interesting is that these differences are not apparent in the teachings of the New Testament.  On that these colleges and Mr. Ham basically agreed.  However the problem came in when they taught science and taught about Genesis.    The great majority of these Christian colleges taught an old earth and evolution as science – NOT a young earth creationism!

So, while we are still fighting, so far largely successfully, to maintain science standards in our public schools it appears that science has made some significant inroads in unexpected places – conservative Christian colleges.   To me this is great news, on many levels. 

First off it shows that the evidence for evolution and how it works is so overwhelming that even those in what has traditionally been a hostile environment for science have to acknowledge it.  Either that or cease to reason and blind themselves to the evidence.  

They apparantly have realized the truth of what St. Augustine said in his ‘On the Literal Meaning of Genesis”  

“Even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens,… the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.  Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsens on these topics;  and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.”

What pleases me even more about this is that it also backs up my contention that evolution and atheism are not synonyms and that one can be a good Christian and still acknowledge the reality of evolution and of how it works. 

To my mind a reasoning, rational Christian should realize that if God exists then the evidence of the world cannot conflict with that of Biblical revelation.  If they do then there is something wrong with either the understanding of how the world works or with the understanding of God’s revelation.  

What this means is that if the facts accumulate to such a degree that it is no longer rational to deny a fact of the world then a good hard look needs to be taken at how God’s revelation is understood.  After all, humans are fallible creatures. 

Rational Christians realize that human fallibility applies not only in regards to knowledge of the world but also to understanding revelation.    The latter possibility never seems to occur to creationists.  

This just highlights the fact that the debate between scientists and creationists is NOT that of the atheism vs. Christianity.  Instead it is between science vs.  non-science.  And it seems that science may be winning. 

Ken Ham published his findings in a book called “Already Compromised”.  I may have to read it just for the good news.

Why I Don’t Say the Pledge July 3, 2011

Posted by frrobins in activism, atheism, Christianity, Church and State, critical thinking, Current Events, Memories, Personal, Pledge, Politics, Religion.
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I don’t say The Pledge of Allegiance. I haven’t since I was in junior high school. One day I’m hoping I will get the guts to not stand during it. Why? Because I find saying the Pledge rather anti-patriotic. I feel that to be an active participant in a democracy you have to think critically and keep yourself informed on issues. Patriotism is not a passive process for me but an active one. Saying someone someone else wrote does not employ critical thinking nor does it illuminate one on important issues facing our country. In fact, I think it discourages critical thinking by inducing everyone to say the same words without thinking about what they are saying.

And since most of us started saying the Pledge in elementary school, this just reinforces the idea to me that it is a rote habit rather than something we are thinking about.

I was probably five or six when my parents explained to me that while they would say the Pledge, they would be silent during the “under God” part. We are atheists and don’t believe in God, and feel that saying “under God” violates our conscience. So for awhile I would say the Pledge and stay quiet during “under God.” Until the third grade when other kids found out I was an atheist and teased me for it. Until then it never occurred to me that I would be teased for not believing in one less god than everyone else, and it never occurred to me that my religious convictions were something to be hidden. Yet when I started a new school having people find out I was an atheist was something that terrified me.

So then I was caught in a trap. I know a lot of people would say that I should have just said “under God” and shut up about it. Yet I have always been driven by the need to live my life truthfully. Even as people around me rejected me, I could never stop being who I was without causing myself extreme mental anguish. So on the one hand I was terrified that if I didn’t say “under God” people at my new school would notice and ask why, yet if I said it I felt that I was being dishonest. It was a horrendous dilemma for an elementary school student to find herself in.

Sometimes I’d say “under God” other times I wouldn’t. One time I even noticed another kid nervously refrain from saying “under God”. I remember wanting to ask him so badly if he believed the same way I did but was too scared to.

Then one day, I’m not sure when, I just stopped saying it. Some days I would, others I wouldn’t. I would always stand so as not to draw too much attention to myself, yet I was quiet the whole time. By the time I finished junior high it was a habit. By the time I was in high school, I’d even stopped putting my hand over my heart.

I’ll make no bones that it started out as a way out of my dilemma and that it is now, as an adult, that I rationally justify my actions. And the reason is that no one should be compelled to say something they don’t believe in. This is America, after all, where we have the freedom to worship one God, or one Goddess, or many Gods and Goddesses, or none at all. This is America where we have freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to not be compelled to spout views you don’t agree with. Yet every morning we compel children to recite words as if they are automatons.

And it’s not just atheists who have moral dilemmas concerning the Pledge. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian groups experience a conflict because their beliefs prevent them from pledging allegiance to anyone other than God.

My questions to people who support forcing others to say the Pledge is, how is democracy served by forcing people to say a pre-written pledge? What do schoolchildren learn about being active participants in a democracy by saying the Pledge? How are we teaching kids to think critically when we are forcing them to spout words unthinkingly from their mouths? How does saying the Pledge foster patriotism? What is gained by forcing people to say things they don’t agree with? Seems to me like it’s just a good way to incite them to rebel.

And to those who say you can just say quiet while everyone else says it, I will point to my above experiences. Staying quiet while everyone else says the Pledge is a good way to paint a target on yourself in school. Kids should not be put in the position between following their conscience and fear of being bullied for being different. Period.

If you want to say the Pledge every morning, go ahead. I won’t stop you. If you want your kids to say it, then say it with them in the morning before they leave for school. Yet everyone else should not be forced to say the Pledge if they are not amenable, and I for one am not.

Better Late Than Never February 9, 2011

Posted by frrobins in atheism, Christianity, Memories, Personal, Religion, Schools.
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Like many people, I always think of the perfect comeback long after a discussion has subsided. I’ll usually be driving home, replaying the conversation in my head when the perfect response will come to me. Well, this one came about ten years too late. It’s such a good one that I felt the need to share.

Way back in high school, I was sitting in my physics class, waiting for the bell to ring to signal the start of class. Beside me, one of my peers was reading outloud from a Bible. From her self-righteous bearing I know she was just daring someone to tell her to stop. I didn’t take the bait.

Yet now it occurs to me I should have said, “Hey, can you read Gen 19:30 for me please? It is one of my favorites!”

The Right to Be Insensitive September 8, 2010

Posted by Dindy in Church and State, Current Events, Islam, Muslims, Religion, Religious Right, Terrorism.
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In the short story The Accident, the great science fiction writer James White tells the story of the origin of Sector General, the interplanetary medical center created to provide medical care to aliens. The story tells of two war heroes of different species, Grawlya –Ki and MacEwan, who had been locked in mortal combat between their spaceships and both crash landed on an unknown world. Determined to learn all he could about his enemy, Grawlya-Ki boarded MacEwan’s ship. MacEwan was gravely injured, dying. Grawlya-Ki did not know when or if his distress beacon would bring rescuers.

After a 6-hour one-on-one battle, the two were probably going to die together. Because there was no longer anything left to fight about and because they had developed a respect for each other during the fight, they began to communicate and in so doing, found that the entire war between their two peoples had been based on a joint misunderstanding.

When the Orligian rescue ship arrived, the two were barely alive and beyond medical help so the Orligians put the control room of the spaceship and the two combatants into stasis and transported them to the central square of the planetary capital of Orligia where for 236 years it served as a very effective war memorial. When medical science finally progressed to the point where the beings’ wounds could be healed, they were released from stasis and eventually founded the Sector General hospital which brought peace to the galaxy through providing medical care for all.

It is to be hoped that something similar will happen with the Cordoba Center, which most Americans know as the Ground Zero mosque even though it is not actually a mosque nor is it at Ground Zero– but since when have facts ever stood in the way of a good sound bite?

There is a great deal of rhetoric slinging about the country about the Cordoba Center, which is actually a proposed Islamic Community Center that will not even be visible from Ground Zero. President Obama lost approval points and raised anew questions about his religious beliefs when he stated that he supported the right of the Moslems to build the mosque and dared to voice the opinion that freedom of religion applies to everyone, not just Christians.

If the Cordoba Center has served as a divisive political issue for the upcoming elections, it has also divided Moslems, many of whom have come out publicly against the proposed center, some on the grounds that it is insensitive and some who state that it is being built by radical Islamists who are thumbing their nose at the 9-11 tragedy.

It is the insensitivity of the proposed Cordoba Center that I keep coming back to. I can fully accept that the developers do not mean to be insensitive. I can completely accept that they mean it to be a center for people to learn more about Islam. However I also think they do not realize that Ground Zero has assumed a hallowed place in the mind of most Americans and that for most of us, 9-11 will forever be remembered as the day our world changed for the worst.  I remember the fear and sense of loss I felt after 9-11, not just for the lives that were lost but for the sense of security that we as Americans had lost. Never again would we be able to feel safe in our own country, on our own land. People who have grown up in places continually torn asunder by war and terrorism have never known what it is like to feel complete safe, but we did before 9-11.

Before 9-11, we were largely untouched by terrorism. We remember when we could board airplanes without having to take our shoes off and without having to discard all our liquids and without having our bags routinely searched. We remember when the New York landscape was dominated by the twin towers and the jarring after images of the cityscape with nothing where the twin towers used to be. We remember when we could check out library books without worrying that the FBI was checking our reading history, and we remember a time when we could buy airplane tickets without having to worry about a watch list.

Our world changed forever on 9-11 and Ground Zero is a continual reminder to us of not only the lives that were lost but the way of life that went with them. While I can wholeheartedly support the constitutional rights of the Moslems to build the Cordoba Center, inside I keep thinking that it is insensitive. I understand that they don’t mean to be insensitive, but it is.

But…

It was insensitive of the NRA to hold their annual meeting in Denver after Columbine, but they did so anyway, and it was their right to do so. We do not have a right not to be offended in this country, and there are no laws against being insensitive. And maybe, just maybe the Moslems supporting the community center are right to force the issue, to say, in effect– “Look, we know you blame every single member of the Moslem religion for what happened on 9-11 but that is not what we are about. We are about community, about learning, about families, and if you come to our center, you might learn something about us.”

It’s kind of the same strategy Rhett Butler made Scarlett O’Hara adopt when he had her wear the very daring gown to the party the day after she was caught kissing Ashley Wilkes. People are going to be talking about you anyway so you might as well give them something to talk about. And people are going to be fussing about Moslems anyway so you might as well give them something to fuss about.  So maybe fifty or one hundred years from now, school children will visit the Cordoba Center and learn about it in schools as a monument to peace and a tribute to how two vastly different groups of people were brought together to form a more perfect union.

The freedom of speech and religion that we have in this country did not come easily. We fought hard for our right to be a nation, for our right to govern ourselves and for our right to make our own decisions about religion. The peace that we usually enjoy in this country was also hard-won, and in many cases it is only a surface peace, hiding a roiling jumble of conflicts beneath. If some of us have to be offended today in order for there to be a chance of peace in the future, so be it. I support not only the right of Feisal AbdulRauf to build the Cordoba Center, but I support the Center itself. May it lead to greater understanding between our peoples.

Yes America, There Are Moderate Muslims September 5, 2010

Posted by Bill in Islam, Muslims, Religion, Terrorism.
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With the controversy over building a Mosque near ground zero the beliefs of Muslims has been much discussed.  Unfortunately much of that discussion has been in the guise of misinformation and error; the result of biases, hatred, and a very human desire to take a complex situation and keep it simple – even if it does not match reality.

 This is my attempt to at least slow the flood of wrong and incomplete information and make people think about what is being said.   Our mainstream media should be focusing on this, but are not.  What follows are things that should be in our mainstream media, but are not.  

 

The Holocaust

From The Jewish Daily Forward:   http://www.forward.com/articles/130013/

Krakow, Poland — It was a perfect summer day at the Dachau concentration camp. The clear skies and pleasant breeze seemed almost offensive. And there, beneath the main monument, a bronze sculpture of writhing bodies intermeshed with barbed wire, was an uncommon sight: a group of Muslims leaders prostrate in prayer.

At the end of the service, prayer leader Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, offered up an additional prayer: “We pray to God that this will not happen to the Jewish people or to any people anymore.”

Siddiqi was one of eight American Muslim leaders on a study tour to Dachau and Auschwitz that was co-sponsored by a German think tank and the Center for Interreligious Understanding, a New Jersey-based interfaith dialogue group.

Mosque Near Ground Zero

From http://www.news9.com/global/story.asp?s=13032103

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma City Muslim group said the religious freedom issue has already been settled, but said sensitivity is needed over whether to build a Mosque near Ground Zero.

The American Muslim Association of Oklahoma took out a full page ad in Monday’s “Oklahoman.” It’s a call to move the project to a mutually agreeable site. Spokesman Saleem Nizami said it’s time for moderate Muslims to speak out. He said the teachings of Islam demand sensitivity.

“It has become an iconic date 9/11 and the twin towers, so there is something related to that and people are becoming emotional. It is our duty to make sure we pacify and move away,” said Nizami.

Despite good intentions and the legal right to build on that spot, the sensitivity teachings of Islam demand a new location.

“We’ve got to take into consideration the sentiments of the people. What difference does it make if it is there or five miles from there? It’s not going to make any difference,” Nizami said. “If the purpose was to get Islam and the West relations going together, this has brought more division actually.”

And Nizami said the reason for that division is extremism on both sides.

“It’s time that people who are practical stood up. It was due a long time ago,” the American Muslim Association of Oklahoma spokesman said.

“With this ad I hope people realize that yes, there are people, who are Muslim, and who are just like anybody else. And who are solid 100 percent U.S. citizens, defending the Constitution, living by the rule of law. They want to make their lives here, they want to be part of this whole country,” Nizami said.

From

  http://bigpeace.com/jmwaller/2010/08/24/more-muslims-speak-out-against-ground-zero-mosque/

 Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf bills his plan for an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero — which the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected to vote on tonight — as a platform for interfaith cooperation, dialogue and understanding.

But the plan is obviously provocative and confrontational — and it’s hard to imagine that Rauf didn’t know that long before it became public.

That’s one big reason why American Muslims, like other Americans, should reject the project — particularly if they really want to adhere to traditional Islamic principles. I say that as a Muslim convert since 1997.

Traditional, moderate Islam teaches Muslims living in non-Muslim-majority societies to obey the laws and customs of the country in which they reside. They must avoid conflict with their non-Muslim neighbors whenever possible.

Yet it was no secret that a major Islamic construction project near Ground Zero would offend many New Yorkers; indeed, American Muslims themselves were uneasy about the idea from the beginning. Rauf, while he preaches peace, chose the path of controversy and provocation by originating this mosque project.

Muslim leaders dealing with non-Muslims are also supposed to practice moderation — not only in words, but also in their deeds and associations. Rauf portrays himself as a

spiritual moderate. But he has maintained links with Muslim radicals, including enablers of terror, whom he declines to disavow. These include the Malaysian politician Mahathir Mohamad, who supports Hamas’ Gaza dictatorship.

The imam refuses to identify the prospective financial contributors to his undertaking — so we don’t know if there are any radicals among his donors.

American Muslim leaders, especially Sufis and other moderates who assert that peace may be attained through dialogue, cannot accept any alignment with Hamas or any similar organization.

Nor, for that matter, can Muslim leaders allow any accommodation with the clerical tyranny in Iran or with such extremists as the Saudi Wahhabis, Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is a branch) or Pakistani jihadism. Unfortunately, such groups now heavily influence American Islam.

Muslim radicals may see the argument over the Ground Zero mosque as a test of whether Muslims have equal rights in America.

But Muslims will gain such security through sensitivity to their non-Muslim neighbors and resolute opposition to radicalism, not through defiant posturing or defending extremist activities.

Denouncing Terrorist Acts 

From   http://www.mfsd.org/

Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD) joins the Jamiatul-ulema-e-Hind (JUHI, an organization with 10 million Indian Muslim clerics as its members), in strongly denouncing all those responsible for the serial bomb blasts in Bangalore (Karnataka state) on Friday and Ahmedabad (Gujarat state) on Saturday. It extends condolence and expresses its solidarity with the innocent victims of this cowardly and inhuman violence in both cities.     

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts in Bangalore, which apparently were deliberately timed for soon after Friday prayers. Meanwhile, through an e-mail sent out minutes before the first blast in Ahmedabad, an as yet unknown entity calling itself the “Indian Mujahideen” has claimed it committed the dastardly deed “in the name of Allah” and in retaliation, among other things, for the killing of Muslims during the Gujarat genocide in 2002.  

Intelligence agencies have yet to establish whether the self-styled Indian Mujihideen is a real entity or a mere cover for the heinous crimes of some terrorists, Muslim or otherwise. For MSD, all forms of terrorism — committed anywhere in the world and irrespective of the cause, ideology or religion used to justify it — are to be unequivocally condemned. However, it applauds the Jamiat’s view that for a Muslim such nasty deeds are doubly reprehensible if committed by any Muslim since Islam categorically prohibits the targeting of innocents under any circumstance, not even in self-defence. The Quran clearly states that the targeting of even a single innocent person as equivalent to the massacre of all humankind. It may be recalled that less than two months ago, the Jamiat had organised a massive rally of half-a-million Muslims in New Delhi to swear allegiance to a fatwa against terrorism issued by the Darul-uloom Deoband.

And

There are no words that can condemn strongly enough the vicious terror attack on Mumbai, its residents and guests from all over the world. The ruthless attack is an attack on the soul of India and Mumbai, a country and people who have always been hospitable to people from all over the world.

We not only condemn this attack. We deeply mourn the loss of our finest policemen, chiefs and constable, who bear the brunt of vicious political vendetta when they carry out their duty.

India needs to stand united in the face of such an attack. Politicians of all hues and political parties with different affiliations must be compelled to implement structural and qualitative police reforms that have been repeatedly recommend by National Police Commission Reports since 1981 until 1989.

Terrorism and violence of all kinds needs to be meticulously dealt with. Our investigative and intelligence wings must be freed of political pressures and compulsions. There must be a depolarized and decommunalized discourse on terror. We need the immediate implementation of reforms in Indian Intelligence and the Indian Police Force.

Fatwas against Terrorism  

http://www.mfsd.org/Fatwas%20for%20peace%20ed.pdf

“As for suicide bombing, Islam forbids suicide, it forbids the taking of one’s own life.  Attacking civilians, women, children, and the elderly by blowing oneself up is absolutely forbidden in Islam.  No excuse can be made for the crimes committed in New York, Spain, and London and anyone who tries to make excuses for these acts is ignorant of Islamic Law (Sharia), and their excuses are a result of extremism and ignorance.”

And

2005: Fatwa, 500 Muslim clerics, UK July 18

‘Suicide bombings vehemently prohibited’

Response to suicide bombers who attacked three London subway trains and a double-decker bus, killing more than 50 people.

More than 500 British Muslim religious leaders and scholars issued a fatwa in response to the London bombs yesterday. Around 50 Muslim religious leaders from the British Muslim Forum (BMF) stood together by the Houses of Parliament to hear the fatwa read out.

Islam condemns the use of violence and the destruction of innocent lives and says suicide bombings are “vehemently prohibited”.

“We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism in the world. We pray for the peace, security and harmony to triumph in multicultural Great Britain.”

The BMF is an umbrella group launched in March 2005 with nearly 300 mosques affiliated to it. The fatwa will be read out in mosques across the country on Friday.

Another public statement, denouncing the suicide bombings, was made by more than 40 Islamic leaders and scholars at a meeting at London’s Islamic CulturalCentre, organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

http://www.indcatholicnews.com/fatwa.html

 And

2005: Fatwa, Islamic Commission of Spain, March 11

‘Osama, al Qaeda outside Islam’

Response; on the first anniversary of the bomb blasts (‘Europe’s 9/11) in local train stations in Madrid on March 11, 2004 that killed 191 people and injured 1,500.

According to the Sharia, all who declare halal or allowed what God has declared haram or prohibited, like the killing of innocent people in terrorist attacks, have become Kafir Murtadd Mustahlil, that’s to say an apostate, by trying to make a crime such as the murder of innocents, halal (istihlal); a crime forbidden by the Sacred Koran and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad.

As long as Osama ben Laden and his organization defend the legality of terrorism and try to base it on the Sacred Koran and the Sunna, they are committing the crime of istihlal and they have become ipso facto apostates (kafir murtadd), who should not be considered Muslim nor be treated as such.

We declare that Osama ben Laden and his organization Al Qaida, responsible for the horrible crimes against the innocents who vilely were assassinated in the terrorist attack of 11 March in Madrid, are outside the parameters of Islam; and the same goes to all who wield the Sacred Koran and The Prophet’s Sunna to commit terrorist acts.

Based on this fatwa, we have requested the national government and Spanish mass media to stop using the words Islam or Islamic to describe these malefactors, given they are not Muslim nor have any relationship with our Ummaor Islamic Community; instead needing to call them Al Qaida terrorists, but without using Islamic as an adjective, since as it has been declared above, they are not legally so.

http://www.webislam.com/?idn=537

 And 

2005: Fatwa, Fiqh Council of North America, July 28

‘Criminals are no martyrs’

Response to the 7/7 bomb blasts in London. 145 Muslim organizations, mosques and imams in USA endorse the fatwa issued by Fiqh Council.

The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam’s absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any othermethod of attack is haraam – or forbidden – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.”

The Qur’an, Islam’s revealed text, states: “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.”

In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haraam (forbidden) in Islam.

2. It is haraam for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.

3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.

We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safetymand security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.

 Democracy 

 From http://www.mfsd.org/msddeclaration.htm

 Unfortunately, some from among the Muslims make the job of their adversaries very easy. In India and internationally, those who claim to speak or act in the name of Muslims or Islam, help reinforce the image of Muslims as a community of  ‘fundamentalists’, ‘fanatics’, ‘extremists’, ‘anti-nationals’, a people ‘unprepared for, or incapable of, peaceful coexistence with others’.

 To some extent the media, too, is to be blamed: because of its preference for sensationalism, it plays up the statements of hotheads and muckrakers, while moderate, liberal voices find little mention, if at all. While continuing to consistently challenge the words and deeds of fanatics and extremists, Muslims for Secular Democracy proposes to consistently engage the media on its editorial choice that wittingly or unwittingly contributes towards building a negative image of Muslims.

 For minorities targeted by fascist forces the only guarantee of survival with dignity lies, not in gaining the so-called ‘goodwill of the majority’ as the RSS advises, but in the defense of India’s Constitution that guarantees them fundamental rights as equal citizens.

To defend the Constitution is to uphold the basic values enshrined in them against all sectarian, divisive, communal worldviews: not the sanghis alone. It is not possible to fight Hindu communalism without fighting against Muslim communalism, nor is it possible to fight Muslim communalism without fighting against Hindu communalism, because the different communalisms feed on each other.

 And further in:

By secularism is meant the insistence on a clear separation between religion and politics, between matters of faith and affairs of the state; by secularism is meant clear rejection of the idea of a theocratic state in the modern world.

To be secular is to affirm the universality of that principle, its applicability to all countries, irrespective of who constitutes a minority or majority.

Secularism rejects not only the theocratic state but also a majoritarian state that discriminates between citizens on the basis of religion, race or ethnicity; or, worse still, that pits one section of society against another. The claim that Hindu Rashtra would not be a theocratic state is no good news, because a non-theocratic fascist state can be worse.

 And

Later, it was felt that this, too, is not enough since tolerance implies a relationship between ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’. It was then that the idea emerged that for people of different sects to coexist peacefully, it is essential that matters of faith are separated from affairs of the State, so that the State had no religion. This separation of State/politics and religion was understood to mean not equal respect for all religions — Sarva dharma samabhav as the RSS argues — but the State’s aloofness from religious matters.

To say that the State has no religion does not mean that the State is anti-religion. Nor does it mean that State heads or other State functionaries have to be non-religious or anti-religious, or that they could not go to pray in a church, mosque or temple. Or, to take another example, no religious education was to be permitted in state funded schools. This obviously did not mean that children were prohibited from learning about their religion, but only that it was left to parents and communities to make private, non-State, arrangements for religious education).

And

Since last Saturday, Muslims have joined fellow-Indians in Mumbai city and elsewhere in the country to, condemn the barbaric assault on our metropolis, mourn the loss of precious lives, pay homage to those brave policemen and commandos who laid down their lives in the line of duty and express outrage at the all-too apparent collapse of our entire system of governance. 

Now on Sunday, December 7, 2008 Mumbai’s Muslims will assemble in large numbers in front of the Chatrapati Shivaji Train Terminus (VT) at 3 p.m. to condemn all extremist and terrorist activities in the name of Islam and to denounce extremist Muslim organisations and leaders who have openly declared themselves as enemies of India. Taking the lead from Mumbai, Muslims from Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkota, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bengluru, Chennai and other cities will hold similar demonstrations in their respective cities, same date, same time.  

From the FBI website  http://www.fbi.gov/hq/ood/dcla/baltimore.htm

Imam Yahya Hendi is the Imam of the Islamic Society of Frederick in Frederick, Maryland and the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. He also serves as a member of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, Fordham University, and Hartford Seminary. Imam Hendi also teaches a very popular course at Georgetown University, “Inter-Religious Encounter.”

Imam Hendi was one of the Muslim leaders who met often with President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedy. Imam Hendi frequently visits and lectures at churches and synagogues hoping to create positive relationships. In his lectures, he focuses on issues related to gender relations, world peace, political justice, and inter-religious and interfaith issues.

Imam Hendi has appeared on many national and international television and radio shows as an expert on interfaith dialogue and on Islam and Muslims. He has hosted several events to bring various religious and community leaders together. A graduate of the FBI Baltimore Citizens’ Academy, Imam Hendi participated in the grand opening of the Baltimore Division’s new building. In addition, Imam Hendi sponsored a tour of the Baltimore Division for the youth of the Islamic Society of Frederick.

To summarize then, one of the lies being spread is that all the terrorists who committed 9-11 and other atrocities are representative of all of Islam.   These people say that all Muslims are committed to undermining democracy, are willing to kill the innocent and think it justified, are committed to bringing about a strict and harsh version of Sharia Law. 

 A look at the above selections shows this to be false. 

 Further, a little reading of Islamic writings will also reveal differences in interpretation of the Qur’an and its application to life today, including differences in belief in how Sharia law is meant to be applied.   This and the fact that there are many different sects within Islam just as there are within Christianity should all be more than enough that Islam is not a monolithic religious system hell bent on killing all non-Muslims. 

This attempt to make the terrorists representative of all of Islam is not only a lie, but a lie that harms our fight against terrorism. 

First this sort of thinking deprives us of valuable allies – moderate Muslims.   A quick look at history shows that when moderate voices are silenced or rendered powerless then radicals take over.  Russia’s fall into communism is a valuable object lesson in this regards.

Next these arguments play into the terrorist’s hands.  They make a very effective propaganda tool for them; it provides supporting evidence for their claims that America is not really a land of religious freedom but instead a Christian nation intolerant of other religions and beliefs. 

Let me make clear that these people have a right to voice their opinion and I will defend their right to do so.  But just because they have a right to do so does not mean that their words are wise.  They are not.  Instead they are foolish and harmful, but no one ever said only wise speech was protected by our Constitution. 

Both of the above arguments are about how this hateful and wrong rhetoric effects us externally.   However there is a much more dangerous result that might arise is these voices are not answered with the truth. 

Usually this sort of rhetoric is just  a prelude to arguing that Islam should not enjoy the same protections under our Constitution that all other religions have.  That is an internal threat that is far graver than any external damage that might be done.    

Our Constitution and its protection of all it’s citizens rights are what makes the United States such a great country.  It is why so many immigrate here, why so many want to live here, why it has served as an example to so many new democracies.  

The terrorists wish to destroy that greatness.  With their blind arguments and hateful speech those lumping all Muslims as terrorists are helping the terrorists in their efforts. 

Islam encompasses a whole range of beliefs, just as Christianity does.  Many Muslims are our natural allies in the fight against terrorism, but only if we do not turn them against us by turning this into against a religion instead of a war against terrorism.

If You Don’t Agree Just Delete August 30, 2010

Posted by Dindy in Politics, Religion, Religious Right, Uncategorized.
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I am regularly bombarded– okay, slight exaggeration here– at least once a day I receive an email from a friend or acquaintance that contains a rant or diatribe, generally political, pseudo-patriotic, or religious in nature, containing a bunch of unsubstantiated statements and/or opinions and generally ending with some variation of the phrase, “If you agree, pass this on. If you don’t, simply delete.”

These type of chain emails really tick me off, and it is the last statement that really bugs me because the sender is, in essence, saying, “I don’t really give a flip about your opinion, and I don’t want to hear it even though I’ve just regaled you with a piece of my mind.”

Excuse me? So you get to drop a piece of propaganda in my email box and expect me to read it and then if I disagree, just quietly delete it and not let you or anybody else know how I feel about what you have said? What makes you think I am interested in what you have to say if you aren’t interested in what I have to say? Why is it okay for you to push your opinion on to me but not okay for me to push mine back at you?

This is part of the reason I have become more militant at rebutting such emails with facts from www.snopes.com and www.factcheck.org. For emails that are just opinionated rants with few facts, I’m starting to hit Reply All and give the sender and other recipients the benefit of my [much more informed and well thought out] opinion.

Sorry folks, but I have just as much right to force my opinion on you as you do upon me. If you are going to subject me to your idiotic viewpoint, then you are damn well gonna be subjected to mine. Of course, I can’t force you to read it or to agree with me any more than I can force an imbecile to think.

A Creationist Myth About Science And Evolution May 31, 2010

Posted by Bill in Christianity, Creationism, Evolution, Religion, Religious Right, Science.
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Creationists often point to the fact that science can change.  Using evolutionary science as an example they are always bringing up items such as finding what was thought to be an extinct species still living or finding that land plants existed in the Cambrian period when it had been thought none did or finding that evolution may have occurred in starts and stops instead of a smooth progression as evidence against evolution.   

 Somehow they feel that changes such as these and others show that science cannot be trusted.  That science keeps having to correct itself.   They are blind to the reason why this occurs and why, far from being a sign of weakness, it is one of science’s towering strengths. 

 The reason for this is human knowledge is always incomplete.  We do not know everything and to pretend that we do is both arrogant and foolish.  

 Lets use a logic word puzzle for an example. 

 Suppose that you know that there were four horses in a race and each was wearing a different color.  The question is what horse was wearing which color and in what order did they finish. 

 Given only the information above you couldn’t even begin to guess.  However say that you did some research and found out that the four horses were named Dare Devil, Bitter Twist, After Dinner, and Catch Me. 

 You also found out in your research that the colors they were wearing were blue, red, green, and yellow. 

 We know more but not enough to answer the question with certainty.  We know the names of the horses and the colors that were worn.  We can now speculate on where each horse placed and what color they wore.  And then do the research to see if we were correct.

 Lets say that initially we thought that Catch Me was first and was wearing red.  Next was Bitter Twist wearing yellow, followed by Dare Devil wearing green and After Dinner wearing blue.  

 Now we do a bit more research, looking into newspaper articles, talking to people who were betting on the track that day, talking to jockeys, etc.  And we find out that Catch Me was last. 

 We were wrong on where Catch Me placed.  However does this negate that Catch Me was in the race? 

 No.

 Does this negate that the other three horses were in the race?

 No. 

 Does this negate that each was wearing one of the colors listed?

 No. 

 The basics are still true and are not affected by being wrong on the order.  In fact we are now closer to knowing for sure who place in which spot and what color they wore. 

 In fact our research did verify that Catch Me was indeed wearing red.  So that part was also correct.  We have increased out basic knowledge.  Our total knowledge of the race has increased, although we still do not know with certainty who won the first three spots nor what colors they wore. 

 Next we find a picture of the race taken on the home stretch.  It shows Bitter Twist and After Dinner going nose to nose with Bitter Twist having a very slight lead.  Right on their heels is Dare Devil. 

 Unfortunately the picture is a black and white one so we cannot really discern the colors they wore.  However we make our best guess based on how light and dark the colors were. 

 Based on this evidence we now believe that Bitter Twist won the race and was wearing Green.  Next was After Dinner who was wearing blue.  Third place was Dare Devil wearing yellow.  And of course we already know for sure that Catch Me wearing red came in last. 

 Now while we have some evidence for all of the above the evidence for the first three places is not as certain as that for last place.  And sure enough, after doing even more in depth research we find out that parts of our answer above is wrong. 

 We find out that Bitter Twist stumbled and as a result fell to third place.  We also find out that he was actually wearing blue instead of green. 

 We find out that Dare Devil surged at the very last minute and won the race.  We were correct though in that he wore yellow. 

 Finally we find out that After Dinner, wearing green, actually came in third. 

 Notice how finding out the truth about some of the more speculative parts (because of  current insufficiency of evidence) did not in any way negate those parts that had solid evidence. 

The fact that we were wrong initially on who won the race did not in any way negate the fact that a race occurred, that four horses were in it and that they were wearing different colors.

The fact that we were wrong on the first three places did not in any way negate the above nor did it negate the fact that we were correct on which horse came in last.  And we were correct on some of the colors worn by the horses.

 Science is just like this.  It has a bedrock of well established and amply evidenced theory and facts.  The fact that sometimes it is wrong on some of the speculations based on this bedrock does not negate the bedrock.  

The evidence for evolution occurring is still just as strong as it was before even though scientists believed at one time that there were no land plants during the Cambrian.  Just as being wrong on the order of who won the races did not negate the fact that a race had occurred run by four horses so too land plants in the Cambrian not negate the fact that evolution has and is occurring.

 Further this methodology does not pretend it knows everything and desperately ignore new evidence.  It accommodates it and uses it to increase the bedrock knowledge that science does posses. 

 That is why science keeps gaining in knowledge while those who are so arrogant and foolish as to believe that a book gives them all knowledge lose ground.

What Most Have Forgotten March 13, 2010

Posted by Bill in Christianity, Church and State, Politics, Religion, Religious Right.
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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.

The 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.

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.

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 product 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, 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.

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 Iraq.

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? Or would you rather that our government 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 were not. 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.

The United States – A Secular Government, a Christian Culture March 13, 2010

Posted by Bill in Christianity, Church and State, Current Events, Politics, Religion, Religious Right, Schools.
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In Texas we have had our Texas School Board discussing what our social studies and history curriculum should be.  Given that this standard will stay for 10 years and that as one of the largest consumers of textbooks this decision could have a national impact. 

 Needless to say, since this is Texas, the religious conservatives have a nice majority on the Education Board.  Which means that this is not going the way that I think it should. 

 For example, there was a proposal to teach students about why our Founding Fathers considered the separation of church and state of such importance.  It was promptly shot down since the majority of the School Board considers the separation of church and state a myth and the United States a Christian nation founded to be so by our Founding Fathers.

 As evidence they point to several utterances of various Founding Fathers supporting the virtues of Christianity or their actions in supporting religion.  However there are three historical facts that to me shout out very loudly that these people are wrong:  our Founders meant for the United States government to be secular and not a Christian one. 

 The first of these facts is that nowhere in the Constitution, other than a dating convention, is there a mention of God.  There is no mention of Christianity or Jesus.  Nowhere.  This is especially telling since there was a motion to mention Christianity or at least God somewhere in the Constitution.  This motion was not acted upon.  Rather a strange thing to do if they had intended for the United States government to be a Christian one.  Especially considering the fact that every state constitution at that time did mention either God, Jesus, or Christianity. 

 The second fact is that the Constitution barely, and I mean barely, passed.  It was voted on by conventions in every state and in each and every state it was a political battle; one that was lost in some and won in others.  One of the criticisms of the Constitution brought up by many who were against it was that it did not include a mention of God or Christianity.  Yet despite the closeness of the vote and the importance they placed on enacting the Constitution none of the Founding Fathers tried to modify it to gain a few votes.

 The third fact is the Treaty of Tripoli.  This treaty was signed on Nov 4, 1796.  After having been read in its entirety on the Senate floor it was unanimously (23 or the 32 Senators were in attendance) ratified by the United States Senate on June 7, 1797.  The treaty was signed by President John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, on June 10, 1797. 

 Of interest here is article 11, which states:

 “Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America 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 Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

At a time when George Washington, Thomas Jeffereson,  James Madison, and many of the other founders were still alive this government document explicitely states that the “Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”.   It passed without protest, without debate, and unanimously.  And was signed by another of our Founding Fathers, President John Adams. 

When you put these three facts together it is very hard to see how it could be claimed that we are founded as a Christian government.  Especially when you toss in a couple of other supporting facts:

–         There is no religious test for public office.  In fact it was explicitly prohibited.  And this at a time when the state constitutions often did require a religious test to hold public office.

–         The state governments over the years gradually dropped those religious requirements and also mention of God and Christianity; following the lead of the United States Constitution.

–         That there were several attempts to change the Constitution to include a mention of God or Christianity.  There was a large push during President Jackson’s Presidency as well as again after the Civil War.  All failed.  

 Then how can the quotes and actions those who oppose the seperation of church and state be reconciled with these facts.  There are several items to keep in mind here:

–         Not all of our Founding Fathers thought alike ( After all, one did present a motion to include God in our Constitution even though it was not acted upon).  In fact they often disagreed with each other with a ferocity that makes it even more amazing that they managed to find compromises that allowed them to create our Constitution. 

–         There is a difference between a nation’s culture and its government.  While it is undoubtedly true that our culture is Christian it is also undoubtedly true that our Founders set up a secular government as the best way to protect the religoius rights of all.

–         At the time of our Founding the states were not required to follow the Bill of Rights.  That was a limitation on the Federal government and not on the State governments.  What would be proper for a State official to do would not for a Federal one. 

o       This can be most clearly seen in regards to the abolition movement.  Many of the southern states outlawed any books or tracts promoting abolition and arrested those who spoke out against slavery.  Free Speech only applied at the Federal and not the state level. 

o       It was the passage of the 14th Amendment after the civil war which changed this and made the Bill of Rights apply to the State government as well as the Federal government. 

In summary then our Founding fathers did indeed set up a secular government amidst a Christian culture. 

The reason why? 

That is my next blog “What Most Have Forgotten”