Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Establishment Clause

This is a placeholder post on notes/quotes related to the Establishment Clause and the Separation of Church and State:

Thomas Jefferson's 'Notes on the State of Virginia' where it talks about Religion (which you can get free online):

Jefferson wrote in 1802 on the CHURCH AND STATE, Wall of separation: Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions. 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 and State R. to A. Danbury Baptists viii, 113. (1802)

William F. Jamieson writing in 1873 'The clergy a source of danger to the American republic':
Notwithstanding the Constitution affirms that no "religious test" should exist, its framers were still fearful that some loop-hole remained through which danger of a religious character might come to the nation. Hence, at the very first session, of the first Congress, the first amendment to the constitution was made:
"Congress shall make 'no law respecting an establishment of religion, of prohibiting the free exercise thereof," etc.
With what jealous care did the Fathers of this Republic guard against the interference of religionists with the affairs of the State? With what solicitude did they lay the foundations of this Nation? They were aware of the despotic power of Religion, whenever, and wherever, it assumed control of human affairs. They apprehended danger to the Republic by the ever meddlesome clergy. They feared the very calamity that has come upon us—religious dictation in civil affairs. Is it not suggestive that the first amendment^ to the Constitution of our country should be on the subject of religion 1 The clergy never accepted the situation, and throughout our whole history have labored to inculcate opinions at variance with the principle of Self-Rule. In order to get the reins of government in their own hands they propose to blot out this 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," and put the following, which I copy from the aforementioned pamphlet, in its place: "The free exercise of the Bible-revealed Christian religion, the observance of the Christian Sabbath, and everything requisite to the promotion of gospel Christianity, without denominational preference, shall be congressionally sustained and supported; and the freedom of the press and of speech, unless in matters of obscenity and profanity, shall not be abridged, or the rights of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Let that principle be carried out, and freedom of speech and of the press would be at an end in this country, as they are in nearly all lands in the old world where Christianity and other equally despotic systems of religion bear rule.
The author of the pamphlet entitled, "Christian Amendments of the Constitution of the United States" reports Dr. Bushnell as saying, "From the Atheistic error in our prime conceptions of government has arisen the Atheistic habit of separating politics from religion." But that sagacious and noble Statesman, Thomas Jefferson, rejoiced that religion and the state were completely divorced in the new nation.

Lief H. Carter's 'An introduction to constitutional interpretation: cases in law and religion' (1991), which contains an entire chapter on this subject.

And, further, ask yourself how a Nation who had declared man was "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" could then enshrine into law the slavery and utter possession of one man by another. One is an ideal, the other is the reality. This Nation has failed AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN, to uphold the ideals upon which it was founded. That is no excuse for failing to right those wrongs.

There have been MANY instances were the government has been involved in the establishment of Religion - but those past transgressions are no excuse for continuing them into the future.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Festivus 2011: Airing of Grievances: Christianity Edition

I was posting on another issue elsewhere and I ended up listing my primary 'beef' with Christianity from a political viewpoint.

  1. Violent and Hateful Christian Identity movements, pro-slavery Christians, KKK, etc
  2. Christians attacking Women's Rights (on nearly every front but predominately their reproductive rights to their own bodies)
  3. Christians attacking gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other Rights (including their RIGHT to marry and enjoy the SAME SECULAR benefits heterosexual couples do; also their right not to suffer hateful discrimination)
  4. Christians attacking science and pushing absolute nonsense like I.D. which is nothing more than Biblical Creationism; this includes stem cell research, evolution, abiogenesis research, research funding in general.
  5. Christians attacking the separation of church and state (and yes I know EXACTLY those words aren't in the constitution, they are the EFFECT of the establishment clause and Jefferson made this extremely clear in his writing - this amended EXISTS because Christians were KILLING EACH OTHER over their religious squabbles, forcing religion OUT of a matter of state proved vastly superior).
  6. Christians LITERALLY brainwashing their children by sending them to these absolutely horrific 'Christian' camps where the kids are subjected to tortuous levels of emotional abuse that cause the children to break down emotionally and force them to 'accept Jesus and confess that they are sinners' (a horrible thing to force upon a child, FORCING them to believe that they are irredeemable sinners who aren't worthy of life except by Grace - it is just inexcusable - Child Abuse of the worst sort, willful and intentional.
  7. Christians who believe God wants them to war with other nations or justify their war, hatred or prejudice on God/Christianity/Bible
  8. Christians who attack sex education and birth control, which directly results in increased unwanted pregnancies, abortions, STDs, and numerous other health and social problems.

These are some of the major areas where I see Christian beliefs causing real emotional and physical harm in the US.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Religion, useless or lifebelt?

RE: The Evolution of the God Gene

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

This is a false dichotomy and, in fact, Daniel Dennett has repeatedly spoken about how well-adapted Religion is for the human mind. Hitchen's speaks of religion as man's early attempts at Science and Philosophy, which it almost certainly was. FACTS never pose any problem for those who care about the truth. In fact, I have studied ancient, animistic, and shamanistic religions for some time because I am deeply interested in this process myself. I also think that these insights can be beneficial to modern humans - our desire to experience the Awe of the cosmos is a drive we share very much in common with all ancient people.

Religion also was and is celebration, community, politics, control, and a consolation to suffering. It plays the role of many different things, to different people, at different times. But this article commits the fallacy of composition when it attributes the beneficial attributes to the Religion and not the component parts, such as philosophy and science. Those are the elements that gave our ancestors a leg up. It was their study of the cycles of nature that enabled them to better predict the future and develop agriculture & cultivation, animal husbandry, navigation, weaponry, fire, and some measure of control over their environment. They simply tied everything together with a celebration of Nature.

The article also incorrectly assumes that all things produced by evolution are automatically and eternally beneficial when this is clearly not the case. Changes that increased survival at one point can be the very change that results in the extinction of a population at a later date. One example, far too many religious people these days are seeking a culmination into the end times - this was not a feature of ancient religions which were based more around the cycles of Nature.

It is this feature that concerns atheists today. We want to keep the community, ethics building, comforting, charitable, philosophical and scientific components and dump the no longer useful parts, which have millions clinging to false and demonstrably harmful beliefs (that condoms CAUSE AIDS, that gay people are evil, that women are not equal to men, etc).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Finely-Tuned, an inconsistent claim on Christianity

William Lane Craig (and other Christian apologists) often present a Fine-Tuning argument which basically alledges that the universe is so incredibly fine-tuned for life that the only way to explain this is to appeal to a God-creator of the Universe.

Never mind that actual physicists, such as Victor J. Stenger, strongly disagree with this assessment, in A Case Against the Fine-Tuning of the Cosmos.

But as we know from Genesis 9:12-13, it is claimed that God establishes the Rainbow as a sign of his covenant:

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

But, as we have discovered through modern science, the rainbow is intimately tied to the precise laws of physics at the Quantum level that produce the precise refraction and reflection properties of water droplets which produce a Rainbow. So, for God to have established the Rainbow in the age of Noah as a sign of his covenant with the Earth, the laws of physics would necessarily have had to have been substantially different prior to this event. And since life existed prior to this time, on Christianity, the laws of physics we observe today cannot be so Finely-Tuned as life apparently existed in a world in which water droplets had neither refraction nor reflection, the propagation of photons must have been profoundly different than we find today.

So this claim is internally inconsistent (or must resort to Special Pleading), as well as failing to be established as factual as Stenger, et al. have shown. And furthermore, until we have a well established final theory of Everything, such claims are extremely tenuous at best because they extrapolate WELL beyond the realms in which current theory has actually been tested.

This is the intellectual equivalent of someone in 1850 observing how well Newton's Law of Gravity fits the observations (in the energy realm in which it had been tested to that point) and concluding from that, that Nature was non-relativistic. Nor today can we assume that the premises of Relativity are PROVEN by the success of the Theory when there are unknowns (how to integrate the theory with the Quantum, and what happens at extremes of energy that are inaccessible to us). These extrapolations from the Theory serve as TESTS of the theory; to misinterpret them commits a very grievous error.

Craig is hiding his semantic game behind numerous implicit premises that are not at all sound assumptions.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Separate but Equal, Together but Apart

I posted this as a comment on the following blog... it's still "awaiting moderation" so I'm going to toss it up here for safe-keeping. Feel free to join in the fray :)

Re: http://potluckbloggers.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/obamas-america-a-place-divided/

“We need to stand together to solve our problems. / Is it election day yet?”
Your vision of “standing together” is interesting. What it seems you mean from these words is that everyone needs to believe as you do and if they don’t, they must be marginalized by voting them out. Can you even see the hypocrisy in these two statements?

Most all want fair and free elections – the issue is not the mere requirement to show ID, it is how it can be used as a tool of disenfranchisement and you KNOW this is the issue being debated but you choose to ignore the facts and instead resort to fallacious and emotional appeals.

I mean honestly, terrorism means we have to show ID to vote??? Your argument is completely without merit, it’s not logical in the slightest. All you’ve done is strewn a few facts here and there and pasted them together with random talking points.

And your facts are extremely skewed and biased; I challenge you to post these facts in comparison (if you can produce RELIABLE sources for data post 2007 that’s fine with me, but I don’t believe that such exists, even the CDC has not finalized 2009 data).

(1) number of US deaths from Domestic terrorism (non-islamic), 2001-2007
(2) number of US deaths from auto / slip&fall accidents, 2001-2007
(3) number of US deaths from Tylenol, 2001-2007
(4) number of US deaths from heart / cancer / Tobacco / alcohol, 2001-2007
(5) number of US deaths from Islamic terrorism, domestic and foreign, 2001-2007
(6) total US deaths, 2001-2007
(7) percent of US morality attributable to Islamic terrorism, domestic and foreign

I want to know just exactly how severe this “Islamic threat” is here in the US, so give me ALL the data and let’s see where it stacks up.

[and I'm not suggesting we ignore it either, the point is that you and others distort the facts all out of proportion -- you ask me to give up constitutional rights on a threat that is smaller than that presented by Staircases, Bathtubs, and pain relievers]

You can pretend to minimize what you believe the effect of such a Bill will be in the US but you CANNOT deny that this has been exactly a tool of disenfranchisement used in the past – the concern is very real. What you failed to do is justify a belief that this cannot and will not be used as such a tool in the US. And you would have to make this case in light of clear evidence that people ARE trying to disenfranchise voters (on BOTH sides to be fair).

The charge is not that YOU personally are a racist, but there are those who are pushing for these policy changes who ARE doing so purely out of prejudice and hatred.

and if we just leave it alone it will make the proper corrections” — a lovely denial of the plain facts of history.

And if you seriously think Obama is a socialist then you need to get a dictionary… not ONCE has he proposed that the means of production be turned over to the government. Regulation and social support systems are NOT, in and of themselves, socialism. You are guilty of the slippery slope fallacy here.

democrats are racists too” — lol you are joking right? Prejudice is hardly a unique property of Republicans. OF COURSE democrats are racists too. Democrats used to be THE racists, the Republican party practically began because of the racism of Democrats who were pro-slavery (predominately southern Christians who used their Bible as a justification for slavery).

And Abraham Lincoln is a personal hero of mine. The Republican party of the time FREED the slaves. But that all changed over time and by the election of 1912 there was nothing left of the Grand Old Party. A mass exodus occured electing Thomas Woodrow Wilson as the 28th president of the United States. From that date forward the Democrats have greatly diversified and adopted more liberal and progressive policies. And it is exactly this effort AGAINST prejudice that appears in the Democrat movement that has pushed the Religious Right over to the Republican party.

So yeah, there is still a LOT of racism and prejudice everywhere – but it cannot be denied that a heavy concentration currently lies with the Religious Right in the Republican party. They are practically frothing at the mouth over the idea that two people of the same sex might get the same civil rights as two people of opposite sex. Why are they so preoccupied with the sexual activities of others?

Where do you see this level of open hatred anywhere else? It’s not ALL republicans to be sure.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


adverb. not only that but also
noun. denial or refusal

I've decided that I don't like the traditional terms agnostic (because it has been co-opted and distorted from the original) nor atheist (because it is too variant in meaning; it is too narrow - it doesn't really define a positive position).

I've been looking around for a new term for some time and I think I like Naytheist (used in Dogland by Will Shetterly), so I'm going to try it on for a while. Consider it a joke or social experiment; I don't know.

Urban Dictionary, that paragon of authoritative definitions, defines 'naytheist' as "someone who claims no affliation with any religion. this does not preclude the belief in god" but screw them; consider this a hostile take-over.

At a high-level my Naytheism is not just a rejection of theism, but a positive belief in the utility of empirical data combined with a metaphysically conservative epistemology.

In more detail, a Naytheist:

(1) Does not hold a positive belief in the ontological existence of any God (creator, pantheistic or otherwise) or metaphysically dualistic concept (soul/spirit), on the principle of parsimony.

And not only that, but also...

(2) Holds a positive belief that ontological propositions are best held to be true based on methodological naturalism (empirical observations, tests, replication, and verification).

And not only that, but also...

(3) Rejects prejudicial belief systems as demonstrably divisive (including Religion, Nationalism, Tribalism, Ethnic prejudice, Colonialism, Caste, or any prejudicial ideology).

Got any other very broadly held positions? post a comment

Before you suggest The Golden Rule please note that the underlying principle of the Golden Rule is to "love thy neighbor as thyself" - and I believe that avoiding prejudice is a more objective way to accomplish that goal.