Persecution of Religion in America


Incredibly off topic post on one of the two “taboo” topics, religion. I just have to rant a little. Drafted this two weeks ago, but completed it when I decided to post it.

Every so often, there is a news piece that upsets me. It is usually someone freaking out because someone displayed a religious symbol or attempted to practice their religion on government property. One recent example involved the denial of a student credit for service hours, as required by her honor society because the service was performed as part of her religious organization.

In some cases, there are legitimate concerns that are being addressed. The government must not favor any religion, or any organization that doesn’t pose a threat to society, over another.

The real issue is that people over-react. In the above situation, there is now a subsequent lawsuit, which is likely an overreaction. This applies to both sides of the argument. The government should not be a Christian institution. It also shouldn’t be based upon Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, or Atheist beliefs.

The US Constitution

The Constitution focuses on one thing, setting the foundation to prevent a state sponsored church. Many original colonists fled religious persecution to settle North America. By the time of the signing of the Constitution, there were many well established religions in the United States, including a healthy number of atheists.[Edit: Correction, no documented atheists. Several founders were deists, but that isn’t the same thing. Not key to debate anyway.] The Constitution set out to prevent that same persecution from happening in this country

Let’s read the two phrases quickly.

Article VI of the Constitution

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.

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That’s it. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury letter back in 1802 defined what he called the separation of church and state, but it didn’t really impact the meaning.

The thing is, they are just meant to be separate. The government can acknowledge religions, religious groups, and the work that they do for society. If a charity is religious based, as long as the money is going to help the charity and not primarily to preach, they can be given money.

Falling Down in Practice

The issue comes with religious references on government buildings. They are permitted, but can’t be restricted to any one religion. The “safe” thing most do is to have no religious references, thus alienating everyone.

Of course, this all goes wrong at Christmas. You can’t display a manger scene without allowing other symbols of religious holidays to be displayed as well. This all rational until someone decides to put a skeleton version of Santa Claus “nailed” to a cross up as well. That actually only has one purpose, to offend. Manger scenes and menorahs are not designed to offend, they commemorate.

If you are offended by religious symbols, then you probably have some serious issues.

Moments of silence in school, don’t advocate anyone one religion. It is a moment for people to pray or reflect upon the day if desired. It does not force anyone to practice any one religion. Heck, I usually spent it finishing my math homework.

Problems come about when people are upset that their kids are exposed to religious concepts at schools. So now people have been conditioned to keep their religious beliefs to themselves.

That is actually a violation of many religious beliefs. Many religions state that you should share your faith, share your beliefs, and educate those willing to learn. Hiding your faith is something done during times of persecution as a survival strategy.

So, I’m not hiding anymore. I’m a Christian, Methodist to be precise. I’m not going to tell you that I am right or that what you may believe is wrong. I’m not going to try and change your beliefs. I’m just not going to hide who I am. I’m not going to raise my kids to hide what they believe.

More importantly, I’m not going to be bothered when others with faiths (atheism is a requires faith) [Edit: Clarified atheism. Isn’t a faith, requires faith. See several comments] other than my own display their beliefs in front of my kids. I want my kids to have the same beliefs that I have, but more importantly, I want their faith be an informed choice. I want my kids to look at those other faiths, see the good in them, and still choose to be Christian.

I don’t want them to be afraid of different faiths. I want them to celebrate the diversity and live in a world where nobody has to hide.

That is all. I will now return you to the regularly schedule Information programming.

20 thoughts on “Persecution of Religion in America

  1. These Words of Pie and Words of Wisdom. I remember I was enjoying a smoke and chatting with a bunch of friends that included Christians, Hindus and Muslims when 9/11 happened. As much as it was shocking for all of us, it also unfortunately led my society to see me as a Muslim, after 25 years of a blissful life as Human Being.

    There is no world of Information Management if we don’t live and let live.

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  2. Lawrence, I could not agree more. I have lived in the MIddle East and the US for many years. I see not much difference in terms of religious behavior.

    But let me add one thing: If you are really unbiased towards other faiths, even of you chose to practice a particular one – and yes, even Atheists or Agnostics do – then all you should want for our kids is to be happy with whatever faith they chose. Not being afraid of other faiths is not enough. But then again it is not up to me to judge how you live your life.

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  3. Dan Paulson says:

    Interesting post. I would however contend that Atheism is not a “faith,” at all but rather a rejection of faith. Faith in religion rests upon the belief in existence of something (god, deity, lifeforce, whatever) without the requirement of any empirical evidence to prove that existence. Atheists reject faith and all the implications thereof. I could go into those implications but that’s a long conversation.

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    • Atheism requires the rejection of the existence of a God with no proof at all. It is faith that something doesn’t exist. Agnostics are the only ones that don’t have faith. They are undecided due to lack of evidence.

      Prove to me that there is no God. You can point to any scientific fact you like, but you can’t prove that another force didn’t create the universe.

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      • Pedro Maia says:

        This is an old misconception and discussion… Atheism is not a faith or religion – it can simply be the absence of belief that any deities exist. Someone said it brilliantly: “Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby”.

        Also, is it not a better approach to let our children choose what they will want to believe when adults, instead of wanting them to have the same beliefs as you? How can they make an informed choice with such ambiance since birth?

        My apologies for

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      • Dan Paulson says:

        It’s precisely the inverse. It is a rejection of the existence of God because there is no proof. What you are saying is that you can posit anything at all (i.e. the classic Bertrand Russel teapot revolving around the Earth example) and say that the burden is on the other person to demonstrate that your position is false, whereas the opposite (what Atheists espouse) is that, like with the scientific method, the burden of proof is upon the person forming the hypothesis to demonstrate their theory to be true (e.g. show me there IS a god, just like you need to show me there is a 2nd moon above the earth if you assert such a thing). Obviously I should never have to show you that there is NOT a 2nd moon above the earth just because you say there is. See where I’m going with this? Agnostics believe in the possibility of God, but have the “wait and see” attitude in respect to the evidence/faith thing. I would argue that neither group relies upon “faith”. This should probably get picked back up over beers sometime ;-0

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    • Dan, take your argument and flip it. Because you can’t disprove the existence of God, I believe. As it stands now, neither stance can be proved. It takes a level of faith to firmly believe one way or the other when there is no evidence to support either. You can’t prove that the “proof” from millenia past did not happen or weren’t caused by a divine being. As a God isn’t required to prove its existence repeatedly to exist, we are at an impasse.

      If the lack of evidence leaves you unsure, then you are Agnostic.

      Dan, yes beer before you fly over the ocean.

      Oh, never said that Atheism is a religion. It requires faith, though it is not a “faith”.

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  4. Interesting.

    But, I think you are being tolerant, because you are required to be.

    And because of that, you re-write history to be tolerant. There were not many established religions. There was one established religion, Christianity, with many denominations.

    And there were native American religions.

    And there were Jews.

    I am not aware of any other historical evidence for your statement “By the time of the signing of the Constitution, there were many well established religions in the United States, including a healthy number of atheists.”

    As for ‘atheists?’ There were agnostics. There do not seem to be records of true atheists at that time. At least, I have never seen actual historical evidence of them.

    There was no influence by Islam upon the Constitution. And from historical records there was no contact between America and Islam until after 1800. The Barbary Pirates changed that. And it was a negative and not a positive change.

    Wayne

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    • I was referring to Catholicism and the different Protestant faiths. If you want to call them denominations, call the Irish and see what their opinion is. The Constitution calls no single religion specifically so it should apply to all.

      I have no documentation that there were atheists back then, so striking that. Many founding fathers were deists which splits the difference. (An oversimplification).

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  5. 100% agree with your principle which is equally applicable outside the US (even though we don’t have the same constitutional framework). People often see religion, faith, and the church as interchangeable terms. Often, they also confuse nationality and religion, and the many wars fought in the name of “faith” have a lot to answer for. I grew up with one denomination, I practice another, I have good friends from different religious backgrounds and so do my kids. Thankfully, the environment we live in does not persecute people based on their beliefs, so I don’t have to pay much attention to the labels. I am also not worried what label my kids decide to subscribe to, as long as the basic values they live their life by, are correct. A very well written and thoughtful piece on a taboo subject, thanks!

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  6. Atheists don’t have religious beliefs. That is, in fact, very close to the definition of atheism. You should stay away from this subject. This one post threatens to destroy a lot of respect I have amassed for you over the years.

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  7. One note to all. I am closing comments shortly. Not that I don’t encourage debate, but debate on topics such as this rarely proceed anywhere. People believe what they believe. Faith cannot be “reasoned” with, that is one of the defining characteristics. I have used people’s comments to help fill-out my post.

    Some have questioned how I am raising my kids. I am raising them to share my beliefs. That is fundamental to my faith. I am teaching them to respect others and be tolerant. Not because they have to be tolerant, because everyone should be not just tolerant, but respectful.

    If anyone has lost any respect for me, fine. I have believed these things the whole time. They don’t impact my ability or experience in the Information space. This isn’t a new focus of the blog either. It was a rant that I wanted to get off of my chest. Given the nature of it, I didn’t want to hide either.

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  8. 🙂 This debate is very interesting! It illustrates exactly the point I made above: People confuse “faith” with “religion”. Faith is “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence”. Atheists believe that there is no God, religions believe that there is. Neither can be proven or disproven so, by definition, both are faiths.

    Nevertheless, this pedantic analysis on faith, misses the point (the way I read it) of the original post which was on being tolerant of individual choices, whatever they may be.

    @Markfaine – I’m curious: Do you lose respect for someone because you disagree with their opinion? Voltaire would be turning in his grave… 😉

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  9. You would let what other people think of you determine the basis upon which you discuss faith?

    That is a religion, not a faith.

    IMHO.

    Wayne

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  10. My comments have more to do with Lawrence speaking out of ignorance. I’ve always valued Lawrence’s opinion precisely because he has valuable knowledge in a particular subject matter (not religion). In one post he proved without a question that while one can be knowledgeable in one area they can still be entirely ignorant in another. Keep to what you know, that is all I’m saying.

    Like others have said, If you want to talk about religion do it elsewhere (another blog perhaps). Having said that, it is your blog and so you can write about whatever you want and I can, of course, just not visit anymore.

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