The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Separatism

September 21, 2006 | 23 Comments

For some reason separation of church and state is an exalted principle of American law. It’s hard to see why, given that the law is ostensibly neutral towards religion, its truth and/or benefits. You can’t really make a decision to keep something in or out unless you’ve decided whether that thing is true or false, good or bad. The official reason seems to be that everyone would fight if one religion were favored over another, but that’s not particularly convincing. After all, at the end of the day some idea, moral principle or policy is favored in law over the rest, with fights breaking out before and after its enactment. If a theocracy would be contentious, so would an ideocracy, moralocracy, or any other sort of policy-ocracy.

At any rate, I think that even most atheists would agree that no matter how much they dislike religion, it’s not so special that it’s the only thing that should be separated from state. There are certainly some non-theological principles that shouldn’t be imposed upon or by the government. If you were to broaden the “separation” concept so as to be inclusive enough to keep out everything that should be kept out, what would you change it to? Separation of _______ and state?

Comments

23 Responses to “Separatism”

  1. Andrea
    September 21st, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

    the law is ostensibly neutral towards religion, its truth and/or benefits.
    The law is not neutral towards religion. If the law didn’t presuppose that religion is beneficial to society then it wouldn’t be allowed at all. The law pretends to be neutral with respect to different religions but clearly favors some over others – Amish people get a break while Jehovah’s Witnesses go to jail, both for practicing their religions. Looking at this broadly, politicians spend a whole lot of time spent on ensuring the facade of neutrality, and whether this is at the expense of taking care of other issues is up for debate.

    at the end of the day some idea, moral principle or policy is favored in law over the rest

    Of course – that’s kind of the point – but at least the current choices are grounded in some way on reality, unlike religion. Religion presupposes a policy and claims it will be enforced by a higher power. Not everyone buys into a single religious idea so fighting’s gonna start. In contrast, politicians debate over policies but only with respect to the best way to solve a problem, or whether a problem exists at all. Then the policies are written by people and enforced by other people. Theocracies stand on their own as hands-down the worst way to run a country.

    At any rate, I think that even most atheists would agree that no matter how much they dislike religion, it’s not so special that it’s the only thing that should be separated from state. There are certainly some non-theological principles that shouldn’t be imposed upon or by the government.

    Begging the question – why do you assume that atheists think that religion is the only thing “special” enough to be separated from government? Some atheists focus on that, sure, but there’s no reason to think that an atheist does or does not support separation of say, private phone calls and government. Since when do atheists, as a group of people with almost nothing in common, get to support just one hands-off issue?

  2. Thorngod
    September 21st, 2006 @ 4:36 pm

    Fill the blank: irrational absolutism

  3. Marcus
    September 21st, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

    It’s kind of hard to tell what you mean by separation here. I mean, there’s no legal doctrine that says religious viewpoints can’t influence government.

    There are, of course, several reasons for the separation of church and state as it exists, though. Justice Souter listed three of the main ones in Zelman v. Simmon Harris: 1. Protect freedom of conscience, so my government isn’t endorsing religions that I disagree with, 2. Preventing government from corrupting religion, and 3. Religion mixed with government causes a lot of strife.

    In any case, I have a hard time seeing your point that religion is no more contentious a basis for government than anything else. Religion is pretty uniquely personal as well as irrational. People also take religion seriously in a way that they don’t as much do with other types of ideologies, because after all, it’s the dictates of God. Really, if they were going to pick one thing to keep away from government (which they didn’t really do, but whatever), I think religion would be a darned good one. Anything else would be overbroad/underbroad and/or meaningless (irrationality? fascism? what?)

  4. Kamikaze189
    September 21st, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

    Seperation of Dogma and State.

  5. therationalfool
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 6:27 am

    I vote for (i) the separation of economy and state, and (ii) the separation of media and state.

  6. Holopupenko
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 6:33 am

    Fill in the blank: “Dogmatic Atheism.” (I realize that’s redundant, but, hey, it’s spot on.)

  7. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 8:05 am

    Raving Antiabortionist says:
    “You can’t really make a decision to keep something in or out unless you’ve decided whether that thing is true or false, good or bad.”

    Well that’s not exactly true is it? Seperating religion from governement doesn’t say, in a general sense, that religion is true, false, bad or good — but merely indicates that it is inappropriate when established as “part of government”.

    Also, I believe you trivialize the argument where you state “seems to be that everyone would fight if one religion were favored over another” …. it is painfully obvious to most sensible people what a disaster it would be if evangelical christianity (substitute islam if you must) held the reigns of government.

    And why the futile exercise in substituting anything else besides “religion” or “church” in “Seperation of _________ and State” ——

    Oh I know why — your blog isn’t about atheism anymore !

  8. Marcus
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 8:29 am

    What if we separated irrationality and state, but then it turned out that life or civilization itself is irrational? I think we’d be in trouble.

  9. Thorngod
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 8:51 am

    I think we’re in trouble.

  10. baron_thredkil
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 9:21 am

    Religion IS special, RA. It is extremely special! It is a special level of belief that CANNOT be spoken against. If something is wrong in the eyes of the supreme creator of the entire universe, you would be insane to gainsay it!

    And of course we all know that only the Southern Baptist Convention knows what the Supreme Creator of the Universe wants.

    We don’t NEED courts and crap! If religion is allowed into government then it simplifies the WHOLE PROCESS!

    Let’s do some court rulin’s right now!
    Women=guilty (brought sin)
    Slavery = OK
    Homersexshulism = death penalty
    Rabbits = cud-chewing bastards!

    (Oh that last one was science, sorry!)

    So there is no reason to NOT keep religion out of government! It’s a win-win situation for ALL RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE!

  11. nix
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 9:59 am

    I think these should be all you/we need. Unfortunately, I think too many people ignore these.

    Amendment IX

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Amendment X

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

  12. Jody Tresidder
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 10:49 am

    Ditto Just_Another_Primate’s point.

    In case the rest of you don’t have typical teenagers in the house…”church!” is the current slang, meaning “cool/sweet”.

    I’m probably horribly out of date already (please don’t tell me it’s been used in an advertising campaign!).

    But I keep being charmed: the “kids” sort of spit out the word with terse approval, and a quick, light, forward pumping motion (elbow glued to the ribs, fist facing up).

    Does anyone know where it’s come from?

  13. qedpro
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

    separation of drugs and state.

    I don’t think the state should be allowed to have laws that punish people for victimless crimes

  14. Gordonliv
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

    How about separation of George W. Bush and the State?

  15. JP
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

    God damn this site sucks now…

    Why the fuck should a good handle like The Raving Atheist belong to this assclown?

  16. Drusilla
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 5:13 pm

    If something is wrong in the eyes of the supreme creator of the entire universe, you would be insane to gainsay it!

    And yet Job does (as do many others), with wondrous results.

    Let’s do some court rulin’s right now!
    Women=guilty (brought sin)
    Slavery = OK
    Homersexshulism = death penalty
    Rabbits = cud-chewing bastards!

    What religion is this?

    There are irrational and rational human beings (and obviously those who believe as per the equations in this chart are from the irrational bent). Some of them are atheist, some not. But how do you determine that all people who believe in God are irrational?

    Because you do not share our experience? Many of us have never shared yours either.

    Because we cannot provide proof that an atheist will accept for our beliefs?

    Relevant story: I have a combination of autoimmune diseases. This summer I developed dysphagia and underwent a series of gruesome tests to pinpoint the diagnosis and determine which treatment options existed. Requiring such tests is rare; only a very few uber-specialists conduct them. I saw two. Both of them recorded the dysphagia and both also discovered that the sphincter muscle between my esophagus and stomach failed to relax. It is very rare for a person with autoimmune diseases to develop the latter condition and so the specialist whose job it was to put together all the data decided I did not have it. He did not accept the proof though it was there before his eyes. Nothing the other uber-specialist or my regular gastroenterologist said was convincing. What we bring to any proposition is a major determinant in whether we will accept the proof that is offered. That is true whenever we are speaking of human beings.

    One can say, There is no proof that God exisits. My honest response is, At this moment, I have not the ability to give you proof of God’s existence that you will accept. I may never have the ability. You may live your entire life without meeting anyone who has the ability. But of course, that is not the same thing as proving that God does not exist. It may reflect my ineptness. It may reflect your stubborness. It may reflect that you speak Farsi and I speak Portuguese and neither of us has learned the other’s language. But it does not determine whether or not God exists.

    PS – Fortunately my regular gastroenterologist accepts the results of the tests and is wise enough to draw his own conclusions.

    PPS – I agree: separation of G.W.B. and state. (Please.)

  17. Irreligious
    September 22nd, 2006 @ 10:36 pm

    First of all, there is no “church” in the United States. There are many, many Christian churches in this country and they don’t all agree in their interpretation of Biblical text. In this context, “church” is a rather amorphous entity that would be rendered meaningless when it came to incorporating its laws into our book of secular laws. We have a Constitution. For lack of any other unifier, that is our bible, so to speak. Religion (or one form of it codified into law) would only be an unwelcomed competitor in the arena of diciphering what is right or wrong, fair or unfair. And in the highly unlikely event that the rules of that one “church” prevailed, then a whole lot of other churches would likely lose out when it came to practicing how they see fit in our pluralistic society that currently protects them from the dictates of whatever the religious majority might be in this country. And it goes without saying that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans and many, many other religious minorities probably cherish this separation as it currently exists. Those slave-holding, land-grabbing, powdered wig-wearing old bastards who codified this separation knew what they were doing because they, too, were from different “churches.”

  18. Vernichten
    September 23rd, 2006 @ 8:11 am

    On O’Reilly the other day, Barney Goldstein says “Christians are the only group in our entire culture that are fair game.”

    Pretty funny. That stupid piece of shit should try running for office on an atheism platform.

    Just thought I’d try to bring it back around to raving atheism.

  19. Irreligious
    September 23rd, 2006 @ 11:38 am

    That is pretty funny coming from a man named Barney Goldstein. And for what, pray tell, are Christians fair game? A systematic dimunition of their rights to practice their religious beliefs in their homes and of places of worship? If there is a concrete example of that happening, I’d like to hear one of these lame apologists for that view explain it. If folks like Mr. Goldstein are saying that Christians are the only group subject to mockery and scorn in popular culture, well, no group is immune from that, and Christians surely don’t suffer for being mocked in this country, any more than rich people or cat owners or postal workers do.

  20. Tom
    September 24th, 2006 @ 6:00 pm

    Separation of Decency and State

  21. General Havok
    September 30th, 2006 @ 8:49 am

    Any discussion of the separation of church and state should begin, from a historical perspective, with the state…not with the church. The concepts inherent in any 200 year-old legal wrangling over the issue were the protection of individuals from the government and not protection of the government from religion. The context was that governments at that time were generally heavily influenced (or run outright) by the religious elite. America’s founding fathers intended to remove from government the power to choose a state religion and thereby demand compliance from the people.

    The fighting mentioned in the post would have been between the government and the people who refused to be governed in that way. Just as most Americans are against prayer in schools (including this Christian), our founding fathers sought to avoid letting a single religion control the entire population. They did not, of course, write the principle of separation of church and state into our founding documents…but what is there is written to protect you and I from a dictatorial government enslaving us with a preferred system of religious belief.

  22. Godthorn
    October 1st, 2006 @ 4:32 pm

    Excellent rendering, general. I salute you–and I like your pseudonym.

  23. Thenormalyears
    October 2nd, 2006 @ 6:37 pm

    Shut the raving atheist blog down. You are being deceptive by nature in continuing it long after your conversion to christianity. Thou Shalt Not Lie has to mean something to you now and you are lying to everyone who comes to this website.

  • Basic Assumptions

    First, there is a God.

    Continue Reading...

  • Search

  • Quote of the Day

    • Fifty Random Links

      See them all on the links page.

      • No Blogroll Links