Friday, August 27, 2010
On freedom of religion
The following is derived from a post on the blog, Daylight Atheism, titled "The Ingratitude of American Theocrats."
"When America's founders ratified the Constitution, they created something that arguably had never existed in the world before: a republic where freedom of religion was explicity enshrined in the charter, where toleration wasn't just the whim of a benevolent ruler but the immutable law of the land. ...
"This was a radical break with history. At the time America was founded, all the great powers of Europe had state-supported churches and monarchs who claimed to rule by divine right, and religious wars and persecution were the order of the day: ... In fact, the Spanish Inquisition was still executing heretics at the time of Thomas Jefferson's presidency. ..."
On the other hand ... "our founding document offered all comers a wonderful bargain: the freedom to live in peace, practice your beliefs as you see fit, even preach them to others. And in return we asked only, as President Washington said, that believers of all kinds be good citizens and obey the law of the land. ...
"But for members of the modern Christian right, it isn't enough. It's not enough for them that they have the right to practice their beliefs as they see fit, free of government interference. It's not enough for them that they have the unlimited freedom to fundraise, pray and preach as much as they like, in whatever media outlets they choose to publish. It's not even enough for them that they can stud the landscape with churches and staff and maintain them tax-free.
"No, these dominionist believers want more than freedom: they want a special, privileged place in the laws of our country. They want the government to obey them, to issue official proclamations reminding everyone of their superiority, and to underwrite their evangelism with tax money from nonbelievers. They want their dogmas and only their dogmas to be taught in public school science classes, enshrined on courthouse lawns, and used as the basis to decide who should be allowed to marry, divorce, be born and die. In short, they want to be what our founders specifically sought to prevent: a state-established church, an arm of the government, with special rights and privileges granted to members and nonbelievers relegated to second-class citizens.
"What selfishness! What ingratitude! All American believers, Christian or not, were given a priceless gift by the founders, and these ones throw it on the ground and spit on it. They don't want to be one religion among many; they want special privileges and special recognition. ... It's telling that these fundamentalists apparently can't just practice their religion on their own - they need constant hand-holding and head-patting from the government to stroke their egos and reassure them that they're better and specialer than everyone else. It's a clear sign of insecurity.
"Benjamin Franklin had their number over two hundred years ago:
'When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself, and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call on for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.'"
There's more to this post, which you can read at the link above.