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Posts Tagged ‘founding fathers’

Liberating the Founders

Posted by Skeptigator on November 10, 2008

A couple weeks ago I heard an excellent program on NPR about the separation of church and state. On Sundays at 4PM local, Krista Tippett hosts the show Speaking of Faith.

On the October 30th show, Krista Tippett interviewed Steven Waldman (here) who runs the BeliefNet.com website. Steven Waldman speaks ostensibly about his book Founding Faith however he delves quite a bit into the early role of Evangelical Christians in establishing the separation of church and state.

I would highly recommend his book as well as listening to this podcast.

Posted in FreeThought, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Promoting religious advocacy for secularism

Posted by Skeptigator on March 24, 2008

I am writing this to contribute to the Blog Against Theocracy 2008 campaign however it’s something that’s been sitting in my rough drafts folder for a while and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get this idea out there.  To be honest I have read a number of articles over the weekend that are being submitted to this blog carnival and most are a “negative” position. I don’t mean negative in a bad sense just in an “against” something sense. I thought it might be good to have a “for” something thrown in the mix. I’m aware of the difficulties in writing a “for” something post when the campaign is “against” something but here’s my best shot.

The best way in America (in particular) to guard against the pitfalls of theocracy is to encourage our religious fellow citizens to embrace Secularism. That’s right, the big, bad, god-destroying, bring out your daughters secularism. This won’t be easy when we would have to work against the likes of Pat Robertson but it is necessary for a lasting peace between the religions appetite for power and our freedoms.

The first step of this new renewed effort is to spend some time explaining that religious advocacy for secularism was there in the beginning of our country and written into the Constitution itself. Many of the Founding Fathers in particular were very well aware of the dangers of mixing religion and politics. In fact, they went out of there way to ensure that religious authority had no explicit political power. Unfortunately, many people will not be persuaded by this since the arguments at the time were about the different and competing Christian denominations, but everyone believed in God. The concern was that one particular branch of Christianity would hold power over all others, not that God in general should be removed from our government.

We must be diligent in explaining that the underlying philosophy of the separation of Church and State is sound. It was simply being represented historically as a sectarian issue. You could take this one step further if you have an open audience, to simply state that our Founding Fathers went out of their way to remove the possibility of sectarian Christian political power and we should be even more diligent now that America has a pluralistic religious (and non-religious) citizenry.

The second step must build on the historical foundation laid down in the first step. There must be a renewed campaign to explain within the historical context mentioned above that removing God (or more accurately keeping him out) of government is the important safeguard to religious freedom today.

The more pessimistic and probably alarmist argument could be made that the early Americans were scared enough of their Christian brothers, can you imagine what would happen, if in their religious fervor Christians tore down the wall of the separation of Church and State, and in a few short decades Islam (or Scientology) or some other fairly hostile religion used that precedent to institute Sharia law (or perhaps more frighteningly Dianetics) in America. The safeguards to religious freedom that have directly contributed to the stability and freedoms in America, ironically, were torn down by the very people who felt their religious freedoms were being infringed upon. How short-sighted they will appear. I think I once heard a sermon that said something like, “if you beat a path to the devil what will prevent him from turning around on you.”

I know this isn’t an easy task. I know this message will fall upon deaf ears particulary within fundamentalist and evangelical communities (and unfortunately more strident Atheists) but it’s important to get this message out nonetheless. This sort of education needs to begin in the history and government classes at the high school level and continued through secondary education. It’s an important argument to make every time that legislation, resolutions and other governmental acts begin to chip away at our religious freedom or blur the line between personal religious belief and a secular government.

Posted in FreeThought, Politics, Religion, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Steve Waldman on Fresh Air

Posted by neuralgourmet on March 15, 2008

Founder of BeliefnetSteven Waldman is the founder of Beliefnet, perhaps the most highly trafficked website on religion and spirituality. He has a new book out entitled Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America in which he debunks some of the myths surrounding the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers. He says that the United States was not founded to be a “Christian nation” as many politicians and clergy on the right (and some on the left) are fond of declaring these days but neither was it founded as a secular nation. Instead, religious liberty was the intent of our early leaders. He appeared this past Tuesday on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terri Gross. Visitors to NPR’s website can listen to the interview and read an excerpt of Waldman’s book.

I haven’t listened to the interview yet, but thought some of our members might be interested. If you’d like to learn more about these issues I can highly recommend Susan Jacoby’s book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.

Posted in Events, FreeThought, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »