The Raving Theist

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Ask the Grocer

January 18, 2009 | 36 Comments

American Atheists opened the new year by releasing a manifesto on the organization’s new legal philosophy. I prepared myself for a scholarly analysis of church/state separation issues, until I noticed that the author, AA National Legal Director Edwin Kagin, was pictured at the top of the page studying Sun-Tzu’s “The Art of War.” His first battle is an assault on his reader’s intelligence, and that of grocers:

Most people would not be so uninformed, or so foolish, as to think they know more than their doctor if told they need to have heart surgery or die. Yet the same people will, without skipping a beat, presume that they know what the law is, how the law works, and what a proper legal judgment should be. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the law, and if one’s grocer unlawfully provides legal advice, the average person is likely to give that view some undeserved merit.

My own experience with doctors and lawyers is that a second opinion from anyone, including a grocer, could not hurt. It would depend upon what the grocer knew. And my experience with average people is that they weigh the grocer’s advice with this in mind.

Mr. Kagin not yet having clearly established his credentials as a legal philosopher, I was tempted to see if a better essay was available at the supermarket. Still, Mr. Kagin’s exalted position with American Atheists persuaded me to read on. However, the next seven convoluted paragraphs simply advised me in sweeping generalities that “the law” is a very complicated thing made by legislatures and courts and subject to change at any time. The only passage touching on AA’s specific area of concern was this:

By building on bad precedents, in time the very concept of separation of religion and government could be destroyed. The religious right understands this. We would be well advised to understand it as well.

I would be open to understanding it if Mr. Kagin would be open to explaining it. Up to this point, he has not said a word about what “the very concept of separation of religion and government” is, why it is important, or how the “religious right” poses a special threat to it. In only one paragraph does he mention a specific social issue, and once again the reader is left with no clue as to how AA, or anyone, should approach it:

[J]udges with liberal backgrounds are likely to decide an issue one way and judges who are proudly conservative will decide the same issue another way. And there are many highly emotionally charged, and controversial, issues around these days, issues for which there is no plain and clear answer, like “gay marriage.” In such cases, only the personal architecture of the individual judges deciding the questions will form the basis for decision. The Constitution could not predict, and give answers for, every fact situation that might arise in our nation’s history. This is where mature, well grounded, legal judgment is needed. There can be law quoted to support any kind of idea, noble or base, that anyone might ever present to a court. Go to a law library and look at the rows of stacks of law books containing written decisions. Someone lost every one of those cases.

But we still don’t know what a “mature, well grounded judge” would say about separation of church and state or any issue supposedly turning on that principle. Nor do we know what AA would say. The only hint we ever get is in the next paragraph:

It is the philosophy of American Atheists to win cases and to create favorable law. This is a change from the policy of the organization in the past. That philosophy was to file the case, no matter how unlikely a court victory might seem, to make the point urged. If something was wrong, it was felt that action should be taken, regardless of the immediate outcome. That philosophy had merit when different people were on the higher courts of our land. In the 1960s, a lawyer could bring a case of civil rights violation before the courts, be quite sloppy in pleading practice and, in the interests of substantial justice, the courts might well carve out an opinion that granted relief and that comported with basic due process of law considerations and with the guarantees of our Bill of Rights. This was a golden age of civil rights litigation. And the religious right hated every moment of it. 

I don’t see what the difference is between AA’s old policy and the new. Under either policy, they were trying “to win cases and to create favorable law.” Apparently, in the 1960’s AA could file a used Kleenex and the left wing courts would do something nice for them. Exactly what, Mr. Kagin does not say. If his essay is any indication of what AA files today, I’m not sure things have changed in any respect. But Kagin insists that it is the courts that have gotten dumber:

Things have changed. The persons of high vision on our highest court have gone to honored places in the history of the law. Justices Black, Douglass, Warren, Marshall and many other great defenders of freedom are no more.  By virtue of the philosophy of their appointers, persons of less noble character and less shining intellect, have taken their places. The past few years have seen an erosion of civil liberties, and a battering against the Wall of Separation between Church and State that is without equal in our history.  Irreparable damage to the First Amendment has been done that may not be repaired within the life span of our republic. 

Somehow I managed to run a virulently atheist blog for many years without the government shutting me down. If Mr. Kagin’s experience was different, he doesn’t explain how. If he’s correct, however, about the First Amendment being broken until America comes to an end, that’s not very long. This Tuesday, in my book.

The remainder of Kagin’s essay explains how AA will not humiliate itself by taking on the obviously losing cases of the sort that it was able to win in the past. This is subject to an interesting exception where “regardless of consequences” . . . the perceived consequences of not litigating would be worse than the possible adverse consequences of litigating.” Under this policy, AA will only take on a legally frivolous case where to do so would comport with AA’s “sound legal judgment.” So AA will ignore consequences while considering them and file legally sound but unsound cases.

I think it’s time they consulted a good grocer.

Comments

36 Responses to “Ask the Grocer”

  1. Fuinseoig
    January 18th, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

    “In such cases, only the personal architecture of the individual judges deciding the questions will form the basis for decision.”

    ‘Personal architecture’? That could mean anything from m’learned friend building bird houses as a hobby to the gentleman’s or lady’s figure – my own personal architecture is more Romanesque than Gothic, for example.

    I imagine he meant the characteristics going to make up the mentality of the judge?

  2. Beelzebub
    January 19th, 2009 @ 4:54 am

    Oh get real. Obama is a million times better than anything the Republicans or wacky Libertarians fielded. Or did you have your hopes set on the dim-witted Sarah Palin? If so you’re dumber than I thought.

  3. jolly atheist
    January 19th, 2009 @ 6:29 am

    Could you please provide a link to the whole of the manifesto so that we can comment fairly? Obviously, you have chosen paragraphs to suit your ‘consult a good grocer’ comment.

    Just one point: “Why the religious right should pose a special threat to separation of religion and state”

    Because religions (esp.Old Testament and Koran)have their own legal systems which are claimed to be divine; so, they cannot be adjusted. For ex: If a muslim has full religious rights, then be ready to cut the hands of a man who happens to steal from that religious muslim! For this reason, religions must be kept in the private area of the individual.

  4. jolly atheist
    January 19th, 2009 @ 6:48 am

    Sorry, the link is already there!

  5. Beelzebub
    January 19th, 2009 @ 8:00 am

    Whatever issue requiring the attention of an atheist group legal counsel should probably have caught the attention of a more powerful group anyway, like ACLU. If a school or other organization is blatantly forcing some kid to partake in an undesired ritual…etc. Which is why these kinds of essays don’t get a lot of my considerations. That being said, your responses are largely obscurantist. I think you know exactly what’s being said, so stop playing dumb. Please (smiles).

  6. Brian Walden
    January 19th, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

    For this reason, religions must be kept in the private area of the individual.

    If you mean legally, that’s unconstitutional. If you mean by persuasion and propaganda, things have been going quite successfully for decades at limiting religious ideas in the public square.

    At the same time, I’m all for exercising our own “tradition” of locking up anyone who assaults another person claiming religious custom as an excuse.

    BTW, Jolly. Out of curiosity, which Old Testament religions are you referring to whose legal systems haven’t changed in hundreds (thousands?) of years?

  7. Louise
    January 19th, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

    There is no reason at all to assume that a secular mind-set is the only one which ought to be used as the basis of law. The secular mind-set is a particlar world view, just as various religions produce particular world views.

    I certainly agree that in no way should Islam be the basis for law, but I don’t see why Christianity should be excluded if we live in a plurlistic, democratic society.

    And I don’t think that atheism should be the exclusive basis for law either.

    Furthermore, I don’t believe an exclusively secular or atheist basis for law would produce a better society than we have now. I’m not necessarily saying it would be worse, but I don’t see why it would be better.

    The Judeo-Christian tradition has been a good basis for law so far.

  8. qlb
    January 20th, 2009 @ 12:26 am

    Secular =/= theist or atheist, for one.

    For another, lol @ jolly atheist’s ‘Muslims would chop off our hands if given the chance’ bit. Noice.

    But another lol goes to Louise’s “I certainly agree that in no way should Islam be the basis for law, but I don’t see why Christianity should be excluded if we live in a plurlistic, democratic society.” The answer to why Christianity can’t be a basis for American law is because it’s a violation of the establishment clause. Besides, if we live in a pluralistic, democratic society (and we do) and we allow Christian legal theory to be acceptable than we should let any legal theory espoused by a religion, including that awful, no good, Islam, be used as well. Obviously that won’t sit well, and that’s why secularism exists- so that pluralistic, democratic society is possible not just in name but in practice as well.

    BTW, you guys might want to make sure you’re read up on Shariâa (beyond Fox News and wikipedia) and not just take the Taliban as exemplars of Islamic law in practice (hint: they’re not).

  9. Louise
    January 20th, 2009 @ 3:12 am

    qlb, I don’t think you quite understood what I meant. What I meant was that since every citizen of the US (and I’m actually not only thinking of the US) has the right to run for office, it follows that his/her ethics will be the basis of his/her votes in parliament (congress etc) and therefore religion *is* an influence in the making of laws. So is atheism, where the politician is an atheist.

    Also, you make the mistake of assuming that secularism is morally neutral, which it isn’t.

    IOW, when I one day run for parliament (here in Oz), should I be voted in, my faith will certainly form the basis of my decisions in voting for or against legislation.

    Also, you take some pride in assuming that Christianity hs nothing to do with your precious constitution and your laws etc, but I think you’ll find that your laws are based largely on British law, which comes largely from a Christian mind set, not an Islamic one. Christianity has a decreasing hold in the culture of the West and therefore in legislation, but Islam is completely foreign.

  10. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 6:46 am

    First, I agree that Taliban is no example of Islam. Islam has been a religion of enlightment for Middle East, Africa and Europe for many centuries. But for reasons too long and complicated to cite here, it has turned out to be the religion of an underdeveloped world with misunderstandings and malpractices of an unedecuted people. Thus the strong attachment to the literal dogma of the book. Imagine a whole lot of uneducated Jews who would adhere to the legal system of the OT word by word. This is the case with Taliban.

    Secondly, since the Judeo-Christian tradition includes both OT and NT, and you should know that most of Koranic law – from the secular point of view – is an adoption of and adaptation from OT, then you should accept that given full religious rights, any radically religious person, be it Christian or Islam may want the legal system of the sacred text, that is OT or Koran. This is what concerns me. A very good example is Turkey – a laic country with secular state laws. Religous’ rights have become a big problem there because, for ex. state law prohibits use of headscarf(religious symbol) in state schools, parliament etc.whereas the president, prime minister and most of the ministers are all very religious people with their wives wearing headscarves. So they take place in state ceremonies with their headscraves, which is actually against the law. How much should be tolerated? If toleration begins with the headscarf, then what if it follows that they want a law for 4 wives as well or as I have mentioned above that the arm of a thief be cut?

    This is what I mean when I say that religion must be kept in the private area. Otherwise, the legal system of the state may turn into a mess with all sorts of different religious demands. State and religion must definitely be separate. That the universal understanding of reason in state matters coincides with the atheist outlook is a bonus on our part. Because the theist also depends on universal values of reason, say when buying a house, in a lawsuit, communicating with a neighbor etc. -everwhere and all times.

  11. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 7:00 am

    BW When I say religion should be kept in the private area, I mean that it should not be regarded in the state law.

  12. lily
    January 20th, 2009 @ 8:35 am

    State and religion cannot be kept separate. Turkey is an excellent example. There have been riots over the issue of head scarves. A secular government cannot be imposed on a religious people except by force. Then it must be kept in place by might, which is, of course, to say it must be kept in force by tyranny.

    The notion that Islam has ever been anything other than a religion stuck in the 7th century is completely ahistoric. It has never been a force for enlightenment or any other good thing. Its very nature and its foundation are militaristic which is why it so easily descends into terrorism. Islam and militarism are joined at the hip.

    It is false to say that Christianity adapted OT laws. It kept God’s laws, as expressed to Moses, and threw out the 617 ceremonial and tribal laws that the ancient Hebrews adopted in their quest to live up to those laws. That includes such barbarities as stoning, cutting off hands, et al. They are still practiced widely in Muslim countries, as we see every time we pick up a newspaper.

    We Americans and other Westerners already have full religious rights. When was the last time a 16 year girl was tried, found guilty, and hanged by her judge for being disobedient? When was the last adulterer stoned in the west? How about never? Christianity is the moral basis for western law. It is the basis for our thinking about the nature of mankind and that is reflected in our laws.

    But the idea that we would allow a barbaric 7th century religion to play any role at all in our current legal system would be madness. It is coming in Europe, since Islam is growing so fast via immigration and birth. It won’t here, since we don’t import large numbers of muslims and our population is stable and not declining, as in Europe. At least not so far.

  13. Brian Walden
    January 20th, 2009 @ 8:49 am

    Damn those Turks and their tolerance – I heard they were thinking of allowing the Orthodox Churches in Turkey to re-open their seminaries. Once they let the Orthodox train priests, it’s a slippery slope from there.

  14. Brian Walden
    January 20th, 2009 @ 8:50 am

    Because the theist also depends on universal values of reason, say when buying a house, in a lawsuit, communicating with a neighbor etc. -everwhere and all times.

    And you call yourself a relativist?

  15. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 9:01 am

    Lily: Your comment is contradictory: For Turkey, you say that a secular government cannot be imposed on a religious people. This means that for the Turkish government, you would favor that they let Islamic law prevail. You can say this, because you live so far from such a situation. A large number of the population in Turkey has adapted themselves to a Western style of living and they are no different from yourselves over there. And if the state does not keep its secular position and acts in favor of the religious lot, then those laws of Islam which are feared by many may prevail.

    On the other hand, saying that Islam was nothing but a 7th century religion, is – sorry to use this word – to be ignorant of Middle East/European history of 8-1500 AD.
    Open any history book and you’ll find it there. Have you never heard of the Islamic State of 8-1200 AD and the Ottoman Empire until the establishment of the secular, laic nation of Turkey in 1923?

    And be ready for an invasion of Islam – be it by birth or migration. Any promotion on any religion promotes the others as well. They cling together towards the atheist enemy. You should be aware that your only remedy lies in promoting universal values of atheism. So I would say join us for a humanistic cause without religion.

  16. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 9:12 am

    BW You’re right. I wrongly used the words ‘everywhere and at all times’ What I meant by that was not any absolute meaning at all. I wanted to say that universal humanistic values apply to theists as well as atheists.

  17. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 9:19 am

    Lily:
    “It kept God’s laws, as expressed to Moses, and threw out the 617 ceremonial and tribal laws that the ancient Hebrews adopted in their quest to live up to those laws.”

    I was mentioning that Koran had adopted and adapted from OT; I didn’t say Christianity; however since you have mentioned that, doesn’t a Jew accept all those 617 ceremonial and tribal laws as God’s word as well? Then you are saying that Christians had the right to decide and choose which were God’s words and which were not.

  18. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    BW: Allowing Orthodox churches those rights is a requirement of the European Union under the framework of allowing rights for the minorities and Turkey is trying to become a member of EU.

  19. Brian Walden
    January 20th, 2009 @ 10:24 am

    Jolly Atheist. My comment about Turkey’s treatment of religious minorities was sarcastic. Their problem is not that they are, or are becoming, too tolerant.

    I wanted to say that universal humanistic values apply to theists as well as atheists.

    Agreed. Yet the extreme examples you give seem to make the suggestion that you think most theists do not agree. America is one example of a nation that has always been culturally theistic yet secular. The problem isn’t governments that remain secular so as to promote the free expression of religion. It’s governments that are radically secular – trying to make religion a merely personal practice and not allowing it in public. I, personally, think the former is the best kind of government for Western nations in our times; when religion (including the religion of radical secularism) and government power mix it’s usually bad for both parties.

    I don’t think anyone is denying that there’s a point where law and religion clash. If there were truly unlimited license to practice religion, anyone could do anything they wanted and claim religious practice to avoid legal prosecution. Freedom of speech faces the same paradox. But I don’t think either ideal is negated by these points of tension.

  20. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    BW I totally agree with you for America. However in countries like Turkey, where religious law is a threat to secularism and the society has become more and more religious – for some reason or another, then it is not so easy for the state law to grant religious rights in the absolute sense. It may lead to sharia. You see how things are relative!

  21. Lily
    January 20th, 2009 @ 10:53 am

    Jolly Atheist said: “I was mentioning that Koran had adopted and adapted from OT; I didn’t say Christianity; however since you have mentioned that, doesn’t a Jew accept all those 617 ceremonial and tribal laws as God’s word as well? Then you are saying that Christians had the right to decide and choose which were God’s words and which were not.”

    Uh, no. Jesus told us which ones we still needed to observe. Since he is God and the Son of God, we are covered I don’t know if Jews today follow many of or all those 617 laws. I don’t think they kill disobedient children nor do they stone anyone, that I am aware of. So I suspect they have done some adapting along the way.

    You said further “… For Turkey, you say that a secular government cannot be imposed on a religious people. This means that for the Turkish government, you would favor that they let Islamic law prevail.”

    Yes. If that is the will of the people. Anything else is tyranny and anathema to Western liberal values.

    JA: “You can say this, because you live so far from such a situation. A large number of the population in Turkey has adapted themselves to a Western style of living and they are no different from yourselves over there.”

    This is irrelevant. They need to work out with their fellow citizens, whatever form of government they can all agree on. Anything else will lead to constant fighting and possibly civil war. I don’t say it will be easy but I believe in government by, for and of the people.

    You said: “On the other hand, saying that Islam was nothing but a 7th century religion, is – sorry to use this word – to be ignorant of Middle East/European history of 8-1500 AD.”

    I am no expert but I am a medievalist by training so I do know a little something about that period. The plain fact is that 1500 is 509 years in the past. In 800 AD Europeans were poor, backwards and living in squalor. Muslims used to exclaim at how dirty they were.

    Then Christianity prevailed throughout Europe; literature, science, universities, and the arts developed and flourished, along with political institutions of various sorts. While Islam stagnated, the west prospered. Do you really want to compare the Muslim world with the West today? We have totally different experiences and very different ways of thinking. Progress may be in the mind of the beholder but Christianity provided the basis for our libery and progress in all areas and still does– at least where it is allowed to.

    I do not say this to be offensive to Muslims but to indicate that Islam is not compatible with western values. Therefore, it cannot be allowed to influence our laws. Christianity has always informed our thinking, our values and, thus, our laws. This is a simple historical fact.

  22. Brian Walden
    January 20th, 2009 @ 11:18 am

    Jolly Atheist, I completely agree with you that the type of government that’s best for a nation is relative. I’m only a moral absolutist.

    The state of Turkey actively represses religious minorities. There’s no other way to put it.

    You do bring up a very good point about the limits of democracy though. One of the flaws of democracy is that what is popular is not always right. I often wonder what will happen to the Western Democracies as our moral views become more and more diverse and even in direct opposition to each other.

  23. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

    Lily: You said that you would be frightened if muslims filled America and required sharia law,didn’t you? And you will do your best to avoid this, if such a situation emerges. May be then, you would even support that state and religion stay apart. So, OK then, it is exactly what’s happening in Turkey today. After 83 years of living by secular westernized standards, people now face – with the rise of religion – a fear of going back to sharia. I agree that a solution has to be found but you must accept that it’s not black and white; it’s not so easy. Because what they want is not a step forward, but backwards.

    I totally agree with you and have actually myself repeated that most muslim peoples are at present underdeveloped, uneducated and can be easily manipulated by using the Koran. I just wanted to stress that the cause of this is not Islam, the religion, because sometime in history, Islam had been a great motivating force for a great empire. Religion is not a handicap; its misuse is. If the sacred books were any handicap, Israel, with their OT should be the most primitive country in the world. We know that they aren’t.

  24. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

    BW “The state of Turkey actively represses religious minorities.”

    I really wonder where you get this idea.

    I haven’t solved for myself the problem of democracy either. The more democratic you get, either your nation or your religion tears apart. Lately, I started thinking that democracy cannot be carried to its limits.

  25. Lily
    January 20th, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

    JA: Attaturk was not democratically elected and he did not rule democratically. The fact that most of us can appreciate much of what he tried to do and why he tried to do it can’t make that fact go away. A one party system by its nature cannot be democratic. To the extent that he wanted to modernize Turkey and free it from the Ottoman past, I sympathize. Much of what he did is admirable but the fact that 83 years later, a significant number of Turks have not bought into the program suggests that democratic change needs to come from the bottom up as well as from the top down.

  26. Brian Walden
    January 20th, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

    BW “The state of Turkey actively represses religious minorities.”

    I really wonder where you get this idea.

    “The relationship between Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire was frequently bitter, due in no small part to the privilege given to Islam. In the secular Republic of Turkey, tensions are still constant. Turkey requires by law that the Patriarch be a Turkish citizen, all of whom have been ethnic Greeks since 1923. The state’s expropriation of church property and the closing of the Orthodox Theological School of Halki are also difficulties faced by the Patriarchate.” – From the Wikipedia article on the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

    I haven’t solved for myself the problem of democracy either. The more democratic you get, either your nation or your religion tears apart. Lately, I started thinking that democracy cannot be carried to its limits.

    I think we’re very much in agreement here. I not sure if the Western Democracies will be democracies in 500 years. But I also have no idea what the next big thing will be.

    Personally, I think on paper the best form of government is enlightened despotism. Someone who knows what’s right and has the power to carry it out. The problem, in practice, is finding a despot who is truly enlightened.

  27. jolly atheist
    January 20th, 2009 @ 6:19 pm

    Lily and BW Well Ataturk was a truly enlightened despot then! And now the government is trying to correct minority rights in the hope of joining EU.
    And Lily those were the pains of turning from a theocratic empire into a laic, secular nation. You say he was not democratically elected. Of course he wasn’t because there was only theocracy before. And with the power he had, just after the independence war, he didn’t need to establish even one democratic party. He could have easily declared himself dictator and nobody would object. Yet he always kept the parliament and made the parliament take the decisions. (He may have used some force on the parliament though.)He made his country leap forward a few centuries, but you are right, may be his people were not ready for such a radical change toward a westernized modernization. I wonder if it is fair to blame him for this.

  28. Lily
    January 20th, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

    I can’t really answer that question, JA. I have a fair amount of sympathy for idealists. I guess where politics is concerned, as in so many human endeavors, you have to know your audience and pitch your message accordingly. No matter how wonderful one’s ideas are, one has to have buy-in from the people. Without it, those ideas have to be imposed by force and they cease to be liberating. Force is never conducive to democratic governance, if that is the desired outcome.

  29. qlb
    January 20th, 2009 @ 7:39 pm

    Louise, “What I meant was that since every citizen of the US (and I’m actually not only thinking of the US) has the right to run for office, it follows that his/her ethics will be the basis of his/her votes in parliament (congress etc) and therefore religion *is* an influence in the making of laws. So is atheism, where the politician is an atheist.”

    This seems obvious and irrelevant.

    “Also, you make the mistake of assuming that secularism is morally neutral, which it isn’t.”

    Never said such a thing, nor does my argument hinge on it. I’m not concerned that secular decisions can be moral; only that they can be democratic and fair.

    “Also, you take some pride in assuming that Christianity hs nothing to do with your precious constitution and your laws etc, but I think you’ll find that your laws are based largely on British law, which comes largely from a Christian mind set, not an Islamic one.”

    I certainly don’t think Christianity has nothing to do with my precious (and it is) constitution or laws. Christianity is -one- of the influences and origins of our society and government. Others include Greek, Roman, British, French, German and even *gasp* Persians and Arabs (I know, Lily, crazy huh!). So, there ya go. The US even in its pre-origins has multicultural roots, and all under the umbrella of secular government.

    Jolly atheist, I pretty much agree with post 10+11.

    Lily, keep Nativism in its grave. Of course Islam is compatible with democracy. The millions of Muslims in the US prove such. Well, that was easy.

  30. lily
    January 20th, 2009 @ 10:23 pm

    No, Islam is not compatible with our democracy. It may well be suited to developing forms of its own and I trust that it will eventually do so.

    “Christianity is -one- of the influences and origins of our society and government. Others include Greek, Roman, British, French, German and even *gasp* Persians and Arabs (I know, Lily, crazy huh!). ”

    Err, no. Not crazy, merely ahistoric. Do tell how the Persians and Arabs influenced the origin of our society and government. I love a good story. The British, French, and Germans are still Christian influences and the influence of Greece and Rome are the stuff of the history that every junior high schooler learns– or used to learn.

    Most American Muslims, outside of areas like Detroit, have assimilated. There are enclaves, where their numbers are so large that peculiarly Islamic customs are being imposed on the communities in which they live, such as public calls to prayer 5 times a day (ah, for the days when one only had to gripe about the noise of church bells a couple of times on Sunday!)and days when only Muslim women are allowed to swim in community swimming pools. It is hard to see how that will be worked out.

    Right now, Muslims on campuses are being accomodated in ways that would have the ACLU howling, if it were Christians being so accomodated (i.e. with foot baths, crosses being removed from chapels, non-denominational chapels being taken over by Muslim students who then physically prevent Christians from gathering there, etc.).

    There is a trifle more to multi-culturalism than Kumbaya, qlb.

  31. jolly atheist
    January 21st, 2009 @ 4:53 am

    “Do tell how the Persians and Arabs influenced the origin of our society and government. I love a good story”

    Here’s the good story: After Paulus’ endeavors and the Roman Emperor’s acceptance of Christianity, should be around 500, Plato’s Academia was closed in Europe because Greek philosophical doctrine was in conflict with Christianity. What happened when the Academia was closed? Well, all the philosophers and learned men went East, to Persia and Antioche (southeastern Anatolia) A science school in Persia accepted them and all the Greek material were translated from Greek through Suryan into Arabic around 7/8th centuries. The Muslim Arabs (Avicenna/Averroes)took the works of Plato, and Aristotle and adapted them to monotheism. Around that date, that is 9-11th centuries Islam became a great power around the Mediterranean. They went as far as Italy and Spain. The carried the ‘adapted to monotheism’ version of Aristotle and Plato to Europe. Averroes was a great interpreter of Aristotle. And Aquinas admits that he was impressed by the interpretation of Avicenna. All these texts were translated into Latin from Arabic, initially. Later, as the Europeans started to discover the originals of Greek philosophy, they stripped the monotheistic version of its added interpretations to reach the humanistic values of Greek philosophers originally. That’s how Renaissance started in Europe. In the meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire declined and Europe came out with its claim to be the one civilized, modern society in the world.

  32. jolly atheist
    January 21st, 2009 @ 5:08 am

    Lily: When criticising Ataturk for using power on the parliament, please don’t judge with the 21st century standards of democracy. Just think what happened in civilized Europe with leaders like Hitler and Mussolini. And that was some 20 years later than Ataturk.

  33. lily
    January 21st, 2009 @ 7:38 am

    Hitler and Mussolini were totalitarians– they were not democrats and really, while they might have used the word of themselves, their programs were nothing like democratic. I am not particularly criticising Attaturk about whom I know next to nothing. My remarks are far more broadly aimed at the utter futility of trying to impose democracy on unwilling people. It can’t be done and is a contradiction in terms.

    As far as the Persian/Arab influence is concerned– good grief. What you have written is almost pure myth, although it is widespread myth. But even if it were entirely accurate, as written, you are talking about a drop of white paint in a gallon of red paint. I suppose that the white paint changes the red in some way but who would ever be able to detect it, much less find some actual change in the color or intensity of the shade of red?

  34. jolly atheist
    January 21st, 2009 @ 10:19 am

    One last remark for both Ataturk and Muslims:

    When Ataturk died, millions fell on the streets crying over his dead body. I know quite a lot of Turkish people whose mothers/grandmothers almost worship him. People are more religious in Turkey now, then they were in 1920’s. It may be partly due to – as Lily had also mentioned – migration of the country people to big cities to which they have not been able to adapt themselves and the higher rate of birth among the more religious.

    You may underestimate the power of Islam in Middle Ages but just take into consideration that whatever education you may have got about the period, comes from Western sources. And there is always the other side of the coin.

  35. Jahrta
    January 21st, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

    “Golly gee whillikers, things sure would be a lot better if everyone believed the same thing (as long as it’s what I believe). My interpretation of my religious text is correct and absolute. Nevermind all those other people from different religions (or even the same religion) saying the same exact thing. They’re all crazy, blah blah blah…”

    (lather, rinse, repeat)

  36. Catherine
    January 22nd, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

    Well, he’s right about one thing:

    Irreparable damage to the First Amendment has been done that may not be repaired within the life span of our republic.

    McCain-Feingold was, is, and always will be a very large turd in our law books. And all three branches of our government worked together to put that abomination on the books.

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