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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


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Bill Van Workum

Count me in too on the blogswarm!

Ronald Reagan once said, "without God, democracy will not and cannot endure. If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under."


Bill, maybe I should clarify. I think that the Rehnquist quote is reprehensible, dangerous and a fire bell in the night for people who care about civil liberties. And I find your sentiments, as expressed on your web site, to be anti-American.

I am not under your god, but I'm an American. I don't ask you to bow to me, but I'm damn sure not going to bow to you and your god. You're free to teach your children anything you wish about religion. But if you think you can force your ideas about god on my children without getting my back up, you are sorely mistaken.

We can live together under separation of church and state. Without it, you and I will be at war. Why can't you grasp that? Or is that what you want?


Wow, where'd that come from? I'm not a religious person either, but I don't see that as a reason to "war" against those who believe what I don't. In fact, why should they be at odds at all? I use my morality to decide how I act, and you use yours. And religious people use theirs. And elected representatives decide what is outside the bounds of the common good, and determine what will be lawful or unlawful. Laws can be changed to reflect different moral climes. That's how the system was set up.

It seems that you would ban religion because you don't like the way it stifles you, even though you are not beholden to it and should not feel stifled at all. If you don't like the laws, convince people that they need to be changed. Don't demonize the people who at least think that they are acting in the common good by using the only moral compass that they know and trust.

And the Constitution guarantees freedom "of" religion, not freedom "from" religion. Why is that so hard to grasp? You aren't encumbered by another person's religion- you're encumbered by laws passed by elected representatives. And those laws can change. Simple enough, it seems to me...


BAN RELIGION??? Who said ANYTHING about banning religion???

Chip. Stop smoking crack and commenting.

And "war" is too strong a word for you? Really? Try enforcing one idea of religion on Americans and see what happens.


"It seems that you would" is what comes before "ban religion", and that's called "context." I was merely commenting on the tone of your previous comment. You obviously are quite anti-religious, so much so that you've apparently taken away your own children's fundamental right to choose what they want to believe. Perhaps I read more into the hateful tone you took with the commenter you replied to than you intended. Sorry if I did.

We already enforce one idea of religion on Americans- Thou Shalt Not Kill. Murder is illegal in America, right? Time to go to war, Dan? I'm waiting to "see what happens"... Dan? What's going to happen, now that your right to kill people is quashed by the reich wing religious wingnuts, huh? I'm guessing nothing.


No, Chip, you're acting like that guy at parties who turns every conversation into whatever it was he wanted to talk about in the first place, regardless of what the people in the original conversation were discussing. You're not commenting on my "hateful" tone: you're commenting on your imagination of my tone, and considering the way you've mocked me on your blog, you commenting on my tone is just bizarre.

When I disagree fundamentally with a position expressed on my site, how would you have me respond? What are you -- the politeness police? You want I should sing Kumbaya here?

So, to clarify:

1. Separation of church and state isn't about hating religion or banning it; it's a practical way to preserve religious freedom in a diverse nation.

2. Separation of church and state has nothing to do with how individuals choose to express their religious beliefs. It protects all of us from the state selecting one religion over others. People who say otherwise -- or who claim that limiting government-sponsored religious expression unfairly limits their personal freedom -- are either missing the point or being deliberately misleading.

3. Those who advocate for the destruction of the church/state "wall" and favor some form of state-sponsored religiosity are advocating a dangerous policy that can only lead to conflict and disaster.

4. That "wall" doesn't exist in the foundational documents of the Republic, so if we want to keep it in place as a wise policy, we have to be vigilant.

5. Me fighting to keep the state from teaching Bob's religion to my kids isn't "taking away (my) children's fundamental right to choose what they believe," it's fighting to preserve that right. For the record, I'm the son of a protestant preacher, we sent Janet's kids to Catholic school because that's her family's religion, and I've encouraged my son to read everything from the New Testament to Scott Cunningham to the Tao Te Ching. So you're not just kinda wrong about that, Chip: You're 180 wrong.

6. The fact that Thou Shalt Not Kill shows up in the 10 Commandments doesn't make murder a religious law any more than "Thou shalt not steal" makes the grand theft auto statute a religious law. This is one of the lamest arguments in the church/state debate and you see it on a regular basis. Remember: the Code of Hammurabi made these things illegal about 500 years before the birth of Moses. We shouldn't be surprised that religious commandments support common sense and ethics, nor should we mistakenly believe that human beings would have no sense of social order and personal ethics without religion.

7. If I'm so "anti-religious," why on Earth would I invite writers with interesting things to say about multiple religious traditions to come write on Xark?

I happen to be a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and one of the reasons I give them my money is that they actually defend the religious freedoms of people I can't stand. So long as we're free to disagree on religion and other topics, we have a chance to get along as Americans. Take that away from us, give one religion state-sanctioned power over another, and Americans will make Baghdad look like Romper Room.


Religious people necessarily bring their religously informed social ethics into democratictic debate. Other people bring their own beliefs about how we should organize our collective life, or the terms of our social contract, or whatever. Then we argue.

I don't think Dan disagrees with that, and he's certainly not some sort or religion-hating bigot. That's ridiculous.

There is a difference between theocracy and the principled participation of religious people in politics. I think all of us are against the former. Christians, who have fallibility and fallenness built into our theology, should be EXTRA careful wielding power, IMO.

I do think, however, that the line between principled participation and theocracy is less clear than some would like. Is limiting stem cell research (cited in the original post) an action only a religious person could advocate? I'd submit that a secular fan of "Brave New World" might have ethical concerns, too. In any case, in debate about the scientific manipulation of human life, I want religious people in the discussion. Values matter here, and I believe that goes beyond a secular ethic of progress.

Likewise, I am glad that MLK ignored critics who accused him of mixing religion and politics. I am thankful to the "social gospel" supporters of the Progressive Movement, the folks who brought us workers' safety laws and the weekend. I strongly disagree that religion is a purely private affair.

I'm not sure how to work this out into a tidy opinion - the line is fuzzy. At a minimum, "because God says so" cannot be the sole basis of a law in our country. It can, however, be the motivating belief of people in the debate. That's a tricky line to me.

Sidenote: If you want to weaken religion's influence in a Western country, try establishing it. Europe did.


Wanna mix religion and politics? Go right ahead -- it's your Constitutional right. Want to use your religious convictions to justify your position on abortion? I might be turned off by it, but I'd defend your right to do so. Want to live by religious beliefs that require you to do things in public that I personally find a little unsettling -- or even annoying? I've got your back.

Remember, that's not the debate. The debate is what the government may do in endorsement of religion. Want to hold an after-school Bible club meeting at a public high school? Please go right ahead. Want your child to pray in school whenever he or she wishes? Fine with me. Want to have a prayer invoking Jesus read aloud during the school's morning announcements? Wrong. That's the line.

I try not to be a dick-head about it. There are all sorts of minor infractions that well-meaning Christians in positions of minor public authority commit, and I'm sure most are surprised when someone says "You're infringing on my religious rights."

On the other hand, I could site multiple references to politicians and preachers who have publicly stated that their goal is to make religious belief a requirement for citizenship, men and women who believe that their flavor of Christianity requires them to seek dominion over the Satanic secularity of democratic government.

And this is the tricky part: I support their right to express that belief, to argue for it, to preach damnation for all who oppose them. I even support their right to play nudge-nudge, wink-wink games with the truth.

It's the government sanction of such foolishness that I oppose. Because as much as I might dislike what they have to say, I'm free to ignore them... until they have the power of law to compel my attention.


Dan, I didn't think we had a significant disagreement, and I still don't.

Something about the original Neural Gourmet post did rub me the wrong way, but I don't think it's worth debating.


What, exactly, did I want to talk about in the first place if I'm "that guy at parties?" I don't think I went off topic here with my comment- you went apeshit on a guy who was confused by your post and called him Anti-American. That's the hateful tone I was talking about.

I'm confused by your whole argument. I don't see how a child hearing a prayer at school indoctrinates that child, but I also don't know why a school would read a prayer during morning announcements in the first place. When a school teaches that Christianity is the one true religion in the United States, that's the line. Prayers are just the time when we struggle not to look up during, for the most part. Especially kids. So saying that your kid might come home a Christian because he hears a prayer at school isn't gonna go that far with me, sorry.

And next time you're trying not to be a dickhead, don't call people anti-American. It makes you look like a dickhead.


So you don't understand the church and state issue and apparently it can't be explained to you. OK. And also you apparently don't understand that putting words in someone's mouth based on faulty assumptions is a way of changing the subject. We're talking about blogging on the value of keeping church and state separate and you suggest that we're somehow advocating banning religion. How very Fox News of you. I suppose I could just let that go, but then again, I just don't feel like it.

Ahem: I will call sentiments that I consider anti-American "anti-American sentiments," and if that makes me a dickhead in Chip Mathis' book... WELL... uh... GREAT. Maybe I'll put that on a T-shirt.

You know why I like to use the term "anti-American"? Because of Limbaugh. And Hannity. And Savage. O'Reilly. And Coulter. And Robertson. Ad infinitum. So long as they're going to use it, I'm going to use it right back at them.

I come from a long line of Christian liberals who believed in non-violence and social action. I was raised on a commune and educated by Quakers. Those people believed in turning the other cheek and stating their principles in positive ways and I admire them for it.

But here's the thing: I'm not made that way.

Ben: I don't think we've got significant disagreements on this. I just saw the opportunity to clarify the debate.


Can we just stipulate that Dan's a "religion-hating bigot" among many other horrible, nasty, ugly and possibly true attributes? (BTW, Dan, it's magnificent Styx-posting bastard to you.)

I mean, if it will move the conversation forward, I'm all for it - true or not. ;-)

I think anyone who posts Rhenquist's quote without linking to Jefferson's Danbury letter is an idiot anyway.

"So long as they're going to use it, I'm going to use it right back at them."

Funny. I didn't see their comment on this post. Was it deleted or were they using an alias?


Dear Tim You Magnificent Styx-Posting Bastard (TYMSTB): I'm just a bitter, bitter man, and every slight and insult I ever absorbed silently in the name of "professionalism" now burns white hot behind my beady little eyes. So you don't have to insult for me to be insulted -- I've got a ready store of past insults from which to choose.

My secret desire: To become the hero known as "THE QUAKER AVENGER," picking up where Billy Jack left off, exacting violent retribution for those who abuse the nonviolent...

EVIL-DOER: You... you just STABBED ME you crazy bastard!
THE QUAKER AVENGER: Tis a gift to be simple, and what could be more simple than vengeance? You'll thank me for this later.
EVIL-DOER: Get away from me you freak!
THE QUAKER AVENGER: Time to face your Inner Light, BITCHES!


Whoops. Typo. It should be "TYMSPB"


So you're so full of hate because you've had to act "professional" your whole life? Wow, maybe you need to grow up a little bit, too. Being an adult makes you lash out at people who don't think the same way you do. Hmmm. That's got to be the first time I've heard that excuse. So bravo for that.

I don't think that you understand my understanding of the separation of church and state. I take it the same way it was intended, that there will be no one religion that the government mandates that all citizens must practice. Not the way that you seem to see things, that Christians can't use their morality to decide how you ought to live your life. Because that's what it boils down to, I think. There is NO LAW establishing a state religion in the United States of America. As far as I can tell, the conditions set in the Constitution have been met.

The problem with people like you is that you're perfectly okay if we teach about Confucius, Greek and Roman Mythology, Islam, Shintoism, yada yada yada. It's only Christianity that raises your hackles (well, maybe Jews, too, but I don't know for sure). So you're being a bigot, even if you're only rebelling against the Christians because there are more of them.

And by the way, when Limbaugh et al call liberals anti-American, it's because of the way liberals act. The whole global warming mess is seen as a way to stifle the American economy. The whole "pull out of Iraq" canard is seen as a way to bring America down a notch by forcing a military loss. THAT is Anti-American.

Reading a prayer in school? Not so much.


Well, I'm done mincing words here.

Chip: Bite me.



That's got to be better than JYIS.


Bah, more like Quakerboy. Besides, you'd be no match for Captain Amish!

The problem with people who say, "The problem with people like you ..." is the whole people bifurcation thing.


Yeah, middle school just called...

They want their insult back.

Is that REALLY the best you've got? "Bite Me"?

If it weren't so sad, it'd be funny. Or, not.


OK, how about bite me, Chip, you punk-ass little bitch?


"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." Th Jefferson, Jan. 1, 1802 in a Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.

I know that Jefferson had his faults - we can list them. But what he and his colleagues did in separating church and state was to me - a moment of pure clarity. I think it's a critical part of the foundation of this country - and to me, it is not part of the 'bad history' that Rhenquist spoke of, but an example of its brillance. My reasons for feeling this way aren't unique - but today I was thinking about the comments above, and placing them into the context of my own personal religious experiences and background and thought of a slightly different spin. So, for what it's worth: I was raised in one of the three peace churches (yes, we're related to the Quakers) - Church of the Brethren - so we are a church that does not support war as an option to resolving disputes. It's a small church and has a small nationwide congregation, so while I don't think 'our' God or 'our' religon would be a dominant one - lets say it was. Do I feel that war should never be an option? I'd like to say yes, but unfortunately - I think some wars are justified. Historians and philosophers and politicians and regular folk have written essays on what action(s) justify going to war - and while I would love to just close my eyes and live in a world where war was never necessary - unfortunately, sometimes it is. But if my peace church suddenly became the dominant religion (okay, fat chance) in a country where church and state were not separated - then the belief that war is not an option would be enforced on everyone. Even as a member of one of the peace churches, I don't want that - my personal beliefs should not be imposed on my fellow citizens. They should not be imposed on you. When I oppose war, my religion is respected, and I can participate in non-violent activities (you know, we're sort of opposed to the whole killing thing - even killing one's supposed 'enemy') and when there is a war that I don't support, like the Iraq war now, I can say so - and support the troops in anyway I can, which in the case of my church, is supporting them when they return home and are in need of care and some kindness.

The best thing about this country is that if you interprete it's constitution in a straight-forward way, nothing is really anti-american. In fact, having the freedom to speak out about one's beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs are, is wildly pro-american.


The good thing about this debate, and,yes, argument, is that we are having it. For a great example of the LACK of the wall between church and state, let us look to, say, Iran, where acceptance of the state religion is mandatory and debate stifled. Isn't that we are fighting against? And isn't religious freedom what they fear the most?


don't we already have a theocrazy, with this administration and the Religious Right ;-)

we removed Saddam, and Iraq's democracy and civil war will install theocracy there. sweet!

i love it when people say why don't the Iraqis stand up and fight for their country. well, they are. they're just not fighting for the country that we want.


Dan: "There are Americans who want liberal media blood spilled, and they want it displayed as a warning to others."

Hmmm ... thoughts, Dan?


Disgusting. Infuriating.


As much as I'd like to believe that, I find little evidence of it.

I can only imagine your expression of infuriated disgust if a journalist had been burned in effigy at a New York Times protest.

I can only imagine how that might set off the part of your brain that "now burns white hot behind my beady little eyes."

It's a shame that I can only imagine it, don't you think?


Are you messing with me, Tim? I don't get it. You've completely befuddled me.


re: "Are you messing with me, Tim?"

Probably, a little.

I'm just thinking about how criticisms and insults directed at journalists might build up into a white hot burning ball behind the eyes while the same jouralists might be seemingly apathetic to the threats and insults hurled at others.


Well, on that high note, I hereby officially end the comments on this disaster of a thread.

For the record, the "bitter, bitter man" comment, which two people have now chosen to treat as a confession on my part, was written with playful intent -- a mistake I intend to keep making. But not on this post.

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