Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Religion in Government for Me but Not for Thee

Sorry, but I just can't let that Loudermilk dude go. One more thing.

He goes on and on about how we are supposedly a "Christian nation:"
Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented.
Color me skeptical. There were some genuine Christians among the founders, but there were also some Deists and free-thinkers. I'll leave the debate on this point to others. I'm not enough of a historian to comment intelligently on the truth of this statement. All I know is that the very first clause of the very first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
Which leads me to believe that keeping religion out of government was rather top-of-mind for the Founders.

Nowadays in the U.S. we have a lot of folks who want the government to help them pray, by keeping prayers on coins and on currency and having public school teachers and principals lead prayers and hold bible study and by putting the Ten Commandments in public schools etc.

Interesting then, as Helen pointed out, that an online poll announced on Wolf Blitzer's Sunday talk show on CNN is currently running 3-to-1 against having religion play any part in in the Iraqi constitution.

I can't help but wonder how many of the people who don't want a religion (Islam) to play any part in the Iraqi government think that it is just fine-and-dandy for the U.S. government to shill for a religion (Christianity) in our own country.

7 comments:

KGo said...

One would think that asking the Iraqi people how *they* feel about this would be a little more consequential (and a little less presumptious and, oh I dunno - racist!) than asking the CNN.com and Wolf Blitzer fans (mostly Americans one can presume)....

Sigh.

Maybe Le Monde should survey its French readers on how they feel about potential amendments to the US Constitution?...

By the way, the answer to all these questions is, of course:

Why don't you mind your own fucking constitution, you dumbass!

Chris Hartman said...

As usual, KGo, you cut to the heart of the matter. As Edward Everett said to Abraham Lincoln after the Gettysburg Address,

"I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

KGo said...

Did Lincoln use the term "dumbass" in the Gettysburg Address? That would have added gravitas...

Anonymous said...

my (Alex's) two cents worth --

1. on the first part, it's not even clear that any of the Founders were what people today would consider "true" Christians -- basically none of the key founders believed in the divinity of Christ, whether Unitarians like Washington and Adams, Deists (Jefferson: "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his Father, in the womb of a virgin will be classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.") or atheists like Franklin ("Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.")

Even the ones who considered them Christians by the precepts of the day were virulent separationists (Madison: "An alliance or coalition between Government and religion cannot be too carefully guarded against......Every new and successful example therefore of a PERFECT SEPARATION between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance........religion and government will exist in greater purity, without (rather) than with the aid of government.") or Washington:( "the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction." 1789 letter responding to clergy complaints that the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ)

2. On the Iraq issue, it's an odd situation isn't it for two reasons -- we have some responsibility greater than zero as an occupying nation (which everyone agrees is true, I think, no matter his views on the war) and also a good Constitution (or Bill of Rights in our case) has a strong anti-majoritarian aspect, so simply putting it to majority vote isn't clearly the best outcome. As a practical example, I can hardly think anyone would claim that the Japanese constitution which was essentially unilaterally imposed on that country by MacArthur and Truman has produced a spectacular success story over the last sixty years.

Chris Hartman said...

Alex, thanks for the U.S. history and the eloquent (and funny) quotes from the Founders. I'm glad someone was paying attention.

On Iraq, I don't think anyone has argued here that the question of religion in government should be put to a majority vote in Iraq, or that the U.S. government has zero responsibility as an occupying nation. Just that the responses to a poll question about some other country's constitution are less relevant than the preferences of the citizens of the other country.

On Japan, can you say more? It seems like you are saying that the U.S.-imposed constitution has *not* been a spectacular success...is that right or is there a "not" missing in there between "would" and "claim?"

My history is spotty, but I remember that MacArthur made a point of preserving the Emperor in his position as divine leader of the country, which made the U.S. occupation easier for the Japanese to accept and was also a legitimation of religion in government, symbolically at least.

In any case I don't think Japan after WWII is very comparable with Iraq after Saddam. In Japan you had the political leaders as well as the Emperor formally surrender, a signal to the people that the U.S. was in charge now. In Iraq that never happened. So as a practical matter I think the U.S. has much less leeway to do whatever it wants there.

(Ethically the whole Iraq thing is a disaster so I'm leaving that to one side for the sake of discussion.)

Anonymous said...

sorry -- I had gleaned from the comments that there was some thought that (on top of the religious hypocrisy issue) Americans shouldn't have an opinion on another country's constitution.

And of course, right on the typo on Japan...

Chris Hartman said...

Well, in retrospect I can see how you would have gleaned that from the comments.

Kgo's "dumbass" comment and my Edward Everett endorsement of it were both less nuanced than my later characterization. But the dumbass part was pretty funny, so I got enthusiastic and started quoting famous 19th century orators.

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