[repost from November 15, 2004 @ 15:52]
When one says “There is no God” it is an antithetical premise to “There is a God”. This antithetical, while negative in statement, is not ‘nothing’; it is not merely an absence of belief. When we find those who both submit the antithetical statement and surround it with actions amounting to a “cause” we have many correlations to that central antithetical statement.
That is the long way of saying that atheism as practiced in a proactive, law changing manner is a system of belief. Simple non-belief does not have the power to be a cause. It would be a figurative shrug. And for those who spend lots of time writing articles, promoting legislation, and arguing their side of it…. atheism is a cause.
Therefore, I would answer Austin thus, on his reaction to my statement:
“I could say that religion is the altar of the faith of the heart, and I don’t think I would be far wrong.”
I’m sure that such a definition expresses important things about what religion is for Ilona. She would indeed, however, be far wrong to think that this would suffice as a description of religion in general. It’s probably not a true statement about all religions that have ever existed and it’s probably not the core attribute of all those religions for which it is true. “
That’s right, Austin. You can say this, because you have not submitted a definition of religion, either. All religion of any type is somehow an expression of a person’s beliefs as they relate to the faith of their heart…. even in it’s negative sense. I do have my personal definitions of my convictions and these fit in the context of “theist”,”Christian”, but that doesn’t negate the more general set, “religion”. What I have said is sufficiently broad to be included in a dictionary definition of religion, which also recognizes the more restricted uses of the word.
Under definition #4, Atheism, as a number of its adherents practice it, does qualify. It has long been recognized that religious fervor is not only in relationship to a deity. The unifying factor is deeply held belief: religion, in whatever its form.
Before I get into the details, it is important to note that there is much ado made about atheism being -for sundry reasons (only one belief, not having the usual structure, having a negative rather than a positive assertion, etc.)- just some idiosyncratic personal conviction. But who on the American scene for the last twenty years, at least, buys that?
For many it is a cause, and one that has the devotion of a religion.
Vash, for the atheist cause, submitted some statements in an email.
I’d also point out that atheists, in general, make an extremely unlikely “unified group”.
This is similar to Austin’s protest that atheism is only one statement. But the fact is that both things can be said of those we recognize as having a “religion”. The one binding all those who believe in God is “There is a God”, and even in the subsets there is such a diversification of interests and ideas that we might look at each and say they ‘make an extremely unlikely “unified group” ‘.
“You speak as if all theists have equal time to express what they want. Do you really believe this is true?”
But these excisions of religion from the face of society are fair to whom? -Ilona
“People who don’t believe in them…… I found it equally understandable that U.S. atheists don’t much fancy being made to participate in school prayer, or stigmatised if they withdraw.”
In the U.S. the guarantee is for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, not equal time, and not a guarantee that the exercise of those freedoms would hold no social price. And this where Austin also had his sticking point, as well.
When he says:
notice how Ilona claims that the deity mentioned in the national motto is not named: “the particular God is not named.” See the capitalization? This names the deity in question. It’s the deity of Christianity at a bare minimum, possibly inclusive of Judaism and Islam depending on how people wish to read it. It’s not a generic god precisely because of the capitalization.
Moreover, this phrase expresses a particular relationship between this god and the nation â€” a relationship that some believers will agree to but others won’t. This is important because it causes the state to take sides in theological disagreements. Since when did the state acquire the authority to do this? What’s next, taking sides with Protestants over Catholics? Oh, right, the state already does that by posting the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments rather than the Jewish or Catholic version. Almost forgot…
“But who treats mere theism as if it alone could qualify as a religion?” The atheists do, anytime they insist that mention of God be deleted from the public venue. So no more disingenuous statements from the athiest’s [sic] camp, please.
This relates to what I just wrote above: when someone talks about “God” rather than “god,” we aren’t dealing with mere theism anymore. The Pledge of Allegiance uses the phrase “under God,” which references are particular deity that has a particular relationship with the nation. It doesn’t use the phrase “under some sort of god or goddess, or then again maybe not,” which would probably be the most generic one could manage.
What is Austin protesting here? That there is a cultural understanding in our country that God =YHVH (the God of the Bible)? Because it is that statement that is ingrained in our cultural consciousness. The God of the Bible. Yes, I believe Austin is correct in pointing this out. But then he goes on to argue that we can’t have that historical reference anymore. Why? Because it does not include every religion and philosophy on the matter, equally. And the issue on “Oh, right, the state already does that by posting the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments rather than the Jewish or Catholic version.” is a non-issue. When one says “version” the discrepancy is in how it is translated and not in source. All “versions” of the Ten Commandments derive from one source. Non-issue.
It serves a wide base in the population, and I might add, in the atheist who subscribes to the morality of them. Because barring the initial God-honoring admonitions…. don’t most atheists agree to the ones that concern the affairs of men? Don’t steal, don’t murder, etc?
But the atheists just don’t like that big G here in America…so they serve up lots of proposed legislation to excise it off the face of everything “official”. Public.
And Austin has lots of chutzpah to say “Second, to impose atheism in any way via the government would require having the government at the very least recommend atheism as the preferable option – this would parallel to the government recommending theism as the preferable option. ”
Well, Austin, it adds up to one or the other, doesn’t it? You might want to say that governmental interference for every statement from every official… which in today’s climate does not have a private avenue… is obstructed when deemed “religious” and defacement of historical references for the sake of the atheist feeling is not imposing atheism. But it will become that. Because that is the only thing allowed. Lowest common denominator? Or tyranny of a minority voice?
Looking At Austin’s Particulars
most of the church/state separation cases that have defined the relationship between religion and government have been brought by theists, not atheists, or theists in conjunction with atheists. It’s a lie spread by the Christian Right that atheists are responsible for everything that is going on.
This might be true, as it stands. I am on the side of Church/State separation as it is articulated by the founding fathers of the nation. In no way do I want any religion, even my religion, having power to force people to worship exactly as I do, or anyone else.
That said, I do not believe this covers the censorship of religious expression. I do not believe this outlaws Bible clubs on school premises, or opening government sessions with prayer, or officials expressing their personal tenets of faith. It is the freedom to participate or abstain that I advocate, and that our founding documents of government advocate.
Not all the legislation can be lumped together as being supported by both theists and atheists. I might propose that if such ideas of separation are carried out too successfully to the point where what government actually upholds is the absence of religion, then the way is paved for government holding all the power in the matter, and its demands trumping all others. And anyone one believes that government is simply an objective non-partisan force is naive, or purposely ignorant.
Placing rights of expression -especially religious expression- on the original platform gives balance to the demand of the prevailing government. The voice of ones conscience is preserved.
This is where the atheist and the theist will necessarily divide, though they band together in preservation of separation. Separation will never equal excision for the theist.
And “lies” spread by the horrid “Christian Right”? Well, Austin has an article on the ‘Christian Right’ that I have not yet read or addressed. All things in due time…. but it sure sounds like buzz-word propaganda to me.
The government is not allowed to recommend disbelief in any gods just like it isn’t allowed to recommend belief…….It is utterly absurd to suggest that if the government fails to endorse theism then it is endorsing atheism – that’s like saying that if the government fails to endorse energy conservation then it therefore endorses energy waste. or if it fails to endorse Windows then it must be endorsing Linux.”
Is it? If you have to use one or the other for your purposes, then it is de facto endorsement. I do believe the operating word would be “particular” as to the endorsement. You want government policy to articulate the direction. So if we don’t articulate “energy conservation” then what do we get? If the decision for government computers is not for Windows… it will have to be some operating system of some sort. Or it doesn’t work.
So some things are unspoken, but replacements replace with something. Although I have to say the analogy was weak. You are allowed to choose one or the other of the choices in government under legislation. It is not the same as choosing a particular religion to have expressions relating to the general idea of a God. It does not impose the need to believe, or say one believes, on the atheist. Just the need to be tolerant of the expression.
I have one question here. In the desire to refuse such expression in official documents or offices, does this mean one should go to the Declaration of Independence and excise all the offending remarks about God (Big G God)?
…and how about the Gettysburg address? Reminting coins? Or is this just about shutting down the voice of those who hold religious views? Maybe because mere belittling just isn’t working well enough?
has anyone noticed how many religious conservatives advocate the privatization of public services (hospitals, social services, etc.) but then turn around and get upset when it is suggested that religion remain private and not become public (in the sense of becoming a function of the government)? I’m not saying that this is true of Ilona â€” I honestly have no idea. It’s simply that it just occurred to me that there are religious conservatives who seem to want to privatize a big chunk of what the government does yet advocate the reverse process for their religion. Curious, isn’t it?
I’d like to explain this for those, who like Austin, have problems with this. This word “private” and privatization may come from the same root word, but they refer to two different things. One means private ownership and the other means keeping something to oneself as in “quiet”. All of us know there is a difference in connotation, I hope. Privatization is for the purpose of something working more efficiently for the particular set of problems. Not so curious, that.
The mere fact that someone abandons religion and adopts some other belief system in its place does not, therefore, mean that they have a religion. That’s nonsense. The mere fact that someone with a non-religious belief system seeks to convince others that this is better than religious belief systems does not, therefore, mean that their belief system must be religious
If one goes back to the definition of ‘religious” or “religion” , it does mean that those who actively advocate a non-religious belief system is religious. Especially if it can successfully block access to other sources of belief system.
Mere theism has no sound base for why we should treat our citizens as having a basic set of rights
I beg to differ. It is the articulation of the authority for man to claim basic rights. That is what is inferred in the word “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence, that some source greater than man himself articulates the rights of all men, which government can then not abrogate.
This is basic theism…. that there is a god/God/gods one is answerable to, above the demands of fellow men.
That this is the Big G God named as “Creator” in our system – well that is just lucky for you, O dissenting American. Nobody said you had to recognize Him, just that you had to recognize the basic rights given to each man by virtue of his existence. We can’t enforce that in other countries with their separate sovereignty, but we can recognize it in ours.
Our government made a choice, an endorsement, if you will.
What is the final point of this…. that I am trying to make a philosophical case of logically induced arguments for categorizing atheism as religion, officially? Obviously, I am not. what I have said is that atheism is acting as a religion in certain contexts, especially when organizing for official controls on religious expression and venues.
An interesting quote:
The fact is that theism was part and parcel of the foundational premises within our present form of government.-Ilona
So was the morality of slavery, but that’s no reason to assume that slavery still has a place in our government. In fact, slavery was important enough to include explicitly in the Constitution. Theism wasn’t.
I find it odd that an atheist would recite this example. I would say it was the very wording of the Declaration of Independence that made slavery impossible to sustain. When applying the theistically-based “WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” to the laws of the land, the concept of slavery would necessarily crumble. Although it needs to be said that it was the British, as lead by religiously motivated and articulating individuals, who made the initial progress in banning slavery.
A nations prevailing beliefs will give rise to their eventual laws and government.
Often, religious disputes give rise to establishment of mens rights, or restrictions. The African-American lead in civil rights for people of color has been rooted in their expression of faith, and sent forth from their church base.
Slavery, of all things, has been decimated by Christian belief that freedom of man is good for all men. After all, it wasn’t under a Greek system that slavery was outlawed. It was under one where the case was argued in the churches and taken into the government.
It is just another reason to not to gag the religious voice in the affairs of the nation. Separation, yes, excision, no.
Looking over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Ann Coulter article on free speech -related in the sense of discussing First Amendment Rights.