Thursday, February 6, 2014

America was built on a belief in God, and there’s just no way to deny that fact

Matt Walsh writes:
I would like to make an appeal to the disciples of the Church of Atheism, the Secular Sacramentalists, the Progressive Proselytes:
Please, let’s just be honest with one another.
My guidance counselor always told me that conflict resolution must begin with honesty.
So can we finally take these words to heart, for God’s sa– well, for our sake, anyway?
Today, President Obama attended the National Prayer Breakfast. He got up and spoke piously of his faith in Jesus Christ. He even made some remarks about how “killing the innocent” is the “ultimate betrayal of God’s Will.” A curious statement, considering the person saying it. I guess he was being sarcastic. 
In any case, there he was. The President of the United States, like most every other president for the last five decades, publicly promoting religion.
And once again, the conversation turns back to the “Separation of Church and State,” and the ridiculous myth of the First Amendment’s “freedom from religion” guarantee. I don’t mind having this debate. But I wish, friends, that we could have it honestly.
Here is how the honest argument would go:
You: I would like to fundamentally change the United States of America – all of its customs, its traditions, its laws, and the philosophy that serves as the foundation for its mission of freedom and liberty — transforming it into a nation of secularism and agnosticism, BECAUSE…  
You: I am uncomfortable when legislation is influenced by the principles of a single religion. The common good in a pluralistic society with many religions is not served by imposing the morality of a single religion on everyone (a single religion, furthermore, that is nothing close to unified); it is better served by considering the maximization of the constitutional values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Me: Horrible idea. Here’s why…
Me: I don't care that there are a wide variety of belief systems and moral principles in our society. We're a Christian nation.
And we could proceed to go back and forth, yell and scream, before eventually, possibly, maybe, hopefully, theoretically, reaching SOME sort of consensus or understanding of SOME kind about SOMETHING. Then we’d shake hands, and go get Italian ice together. It would be fun.
But, unfortunately, our arguments tend to be less fruitful than this, and they never end with us exchanging warm smiles and eating delicious treats. We rarely reach an understanding at all, and it’s hard to find anything constructive about the whole exercise. 
Why is that?  Well, for one thing, you don't seem to be listening to the other side and are distorting their views.
Because the argument isn’t honest. The argument isn’t honest because it usually goes something like this:
You: I insist that the United States of America was founded as a bastion of secularism distortion, and it was never intended that God or religion be recognized in any official capacity at all distortion, for any reason, and that the First Amendment guarantees me the right to be insulated from any mention of the Divine in the public square. distortion
Me: Here’s a thousand reason why you’re wrong about that… Matt Walsh can't even be bothered to type out ONE refutation of the fabricated arguments of his imaginary opponents.
You: Religion causes war! Catholic priests are pedophiles! Leviticus says funny things! Imaginary Sky Wizard! Crusades! The Pope wears a funny hat!
I wish I was being hyperbolic here. Well, then be prepared to have all your wishes fulfilled.
See, I don’t mind arguing against your Atheistic Ideal.  Why, again, are you assuming that I'm an atheist? Well, let me take myself out of it and be more objective. There are many, many Christians and people who practice other religions, or are in some other way not atheist, who do not want a state religion. This is the general argument that I hear over and over again from religious folks:
The Kingdom of God is distinct from any kingdom on earth. All kingdoms on earth are subject to human foibles, weakness, and ultimately, corruption. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven before I am a citizen of any nation state. While I appreciate being an American, and all of that, I realize that even the American government is not the Kingdom of Heaven. To the extent that my religion is enmeshed in institutions of government, my religion becomes corrupt. For example, politicians use religion and manipulate religious people *coughreligiousrightcough* in the service of their own career aspirations. (I remember a man named Matt Walsh believing that president Obama's invocation of religion was somewhat disingenuous and incongruous with his actions.) I don't like people using my religion to score cheap political points.  I am better off practicing my religion free from any additional, institutionalized sources of human depravity and degradation.
Therefore, I would appreciate if the government of the United States would leave my religion alone.
You think the country would be better served if God and religion were contained solely in our churches and our homes? Fine. I don’t agree, but that’s a fine point of view. It’s a point of view we could discuss. Well, good. Since that's the point that the vast majority of your opponents make, why don't you discuss this point? I would like to see you, for once, actually try to work with a real, valid point of view instead of a strawman.
But, instead, you try to claim that your ideal is actually how our country was always supposed to look. No I didn't. I don't care about "supposed to." I care about what is. I think a state religion is a bad idea because of the objective reality that exists right now. Please address that. Defying all proof to the contrary, you say that this is what our Founders were trying to establish. I could care less what a bunch of self-important British land owners thought about anything. You claim that the First Amendment fundamentally protects us from being exposed to religion nope; that is clearly ridiculous (strawman) and in fact I have never heard even the most extreme people say anything like that, and that it forbids any “official” mention or recognition of God. I say, what good does "official" mention or recognition of God do, when those officials act in every way possible contrary to the principles of religion. You say that the First Amendment, from the  start, was meant to ban things like manger scenes outside of town halls and Ten Commandment posters in public school hallways. Nope, never said that. I am aware of what is in the 1st Amendment. I am also aware that the Bill of Rights was never meant to be exhaustive (that was the main controversy in including it in the Constitution at all). I am aware that there are valid reasons for being uncomfortable with manger scenes and Ten Commandment posters in public spaces that do not derive from the 1st Amendment. And I am aware that the Founders were likewise very clearly uncomfortable with the idea of a State Religion.  (I am also aware, Matt Walsh, that in a previous post you said you agreed that religion should be kept out of public schools... just like sex ed.)
These claims are erroneous. They are also strawmen.
Indeed, they are lies – and you know it.  Nope, not lies. Your own fabrications. Not my arguments at all.
The country was founded on a belief in a creator God and has OFFICIALLY endorsed the concept from the very beginning. Just because people personally believed in God, once again, did not mean that they wanted to institute a State Religion. There is a difference. That is the reality. It is not really up for debate. You may wish to turn America into something else, but do not pretend that you are turning it into what it was always designed to be. Have the courage of your convictions. Make your case for an Atheist America, but do not stand there and tell me that America has always been atheist.  Good grief, Matt. All of this exaggerating and distorting and fulminating must be EXHAUSTING.
The evidence against you is staggering:
-Five mentions of God in The Declaration of Independence.
-In God we trust – the motto found in the National Anthem and on coins dating as far back as 1860.
-The Continental Congress issuing the first national proclamation of thanksgiving to God. Yes, and that was, delightfully, a politically motivated action with political - not religious - goals. One of the very first instances of politicians manipulating religious people. What a cute milestone.
-The Continental Congress calling for national repentance of sins.
-Church services being held inside the Capitol Building during the time of the Founders.
-The President swearing in on a Bible. (This is not required, but it’s a custom many have followed. George Washington kissed a Bible after swearing his oath.)
-Swearing on a Bible in court, “so help you God.”
-Federal Oaths that require federal officials to say “so help me God.”
-The Chaplain of the United States Senate.
-Every Senate session beginning with a prayer.
-“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” – George Washington.  George Washington says, "Everyone on earth should serve God." And Matt Walsh hears, "I hereby believe in instituting Christianity as the State Religion of America."
-“You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention…” – George Washington’s speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs. Ah, so now we get to religious rhetoric being used in the service of Native American oppression and genocide. I'm sold!
-“The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.” – John Adams.
The list goes on and on.
Two can play at the “Founding Fathers religion quotes” game, I realize. Yes, cherry-picking is quite easy. I’m sure hundreds of secularists are busily Googling “Thomas Jefferson anti-religion quotes” as we speak. It’s true that some of the Founders were skeptical of “organized religion” (as opposed to disorganized religion, I guess?) but none of them were atheists. Well, if they were skeptical of "organized religion" then I can guarantee they were not trying to institute a State Religion.
Jefferson was a Deist; a fact that only enhances the case for him being very accepting of God in the public square. hahahaha, oh Matt... Deists believe that the truth of a Divine Creator can be ascertained through observation and reason. In other words, they viewed God as an Absolute Reality (same as any other theist) but disagreed on the application of the reality.
Would Jefferson the Deist think that the governors of men should be required to ignore the Absolute Reality of God? How about this: would Jefferson the Deist think that the governors of HUMANS (Matt Walsh is unaware of the existence of women?) should pay superficial homage to a particular organized religion?
I doubt it. And the Declaration of Independence seems to indicate otherwise.
After all, we don’t need to cherry pick random statements from dead men no, precisely, we don't. So can we get off the dead men and start talking about present circumstances?, or even analyze the religiosity that is undeniably ingrained in our official laws and customs. We need only think about the philosophy that serves as the foundation of our country. It is a philosophy of Natural Rights. Our Natural Rights come from Natural Law. Natural Law — particularly since Augustine and, later, St. Aquinas’ Summa Theologica — has been understood as a set of foundational moral laws that are inherent in human beings. Actually, interesting thing. If you trace the history of the philosophy of human rights (which I, of course, have) you will find its origins in the material (property) interests of the emergent bourgeois class. That class was, for the most part, Christian, that is true. However, that philosophy is actually quite at odds with many other strands of Christian thought (which may, for example, emphasize obligations rather than rights), and did not inherently derive from religion itself, but in material self-interest.
Natural Law, and thus Natural Rights, either come from nature itself, or they come from the Creator of Nature. Or they are an idea devised by self-interested human beings. If they come from nature itself, then all democratic notions are in stark defiance of Natural Law. In nature, the strong survive and the weak are preyed upon. That is the law of the jungle; the law of beasts. We, however, subscribe to the transcendent notion that all humans possess a certain dignity which entitles them to certain liberties. I thought you were against entitlements, har har har. This immaterial dignity did not come through an evolutionary process. It was endowed somehow.  If it means anything, then it must be more than a “social contract” or a policy of government. Or it is less than that.
The dignity exists. It is real. It means something. It comes from somewhere.
That “somewhere” must be God.
Without God, your rights are an abhorrent perversion of the only True Natural Law — the Law of Mother Nature – and they are conditionally granted to you by bureaucrats and politicians, who can revoke them at any time and for any reason.  Actually, how lucky for you that I studied the theory of human rights at a graduate level! As it turns out, the existence of human rights does fundamentally, essentially, depend on the existence of a state (i.e. bureaucrats and politicians) to protect said rights. And the basis of state power is, as a matter of fact, the ability to revoke those rights at any time for any reason. (See, for example, the writings of Giorgio Agamben.)
The Declaration of Independence might not be a legal document, but it is a philosophical document. It is America’s Manifesto. It explains that we have rights which are endowed on us by a Creator God. Every good thing about America has grown from this basic starting point. Nah, every good thing about America has grown from the cultural traditions of enslaved Africans.
But… the Separation of Church and State, you shout. Nope, I wasn't shouting. I was reflecting on how much I like blues and gospel music and hip hop culture.
By the way, how do you reconcile your belief that America was, in actuality, founded on the Natural Rights of human beings with the reality that it was also founded on a slave economy and Native American genocide? Just curious.
Should I insult your intelligence by reminding you that no such phrase exists in the Constitution?  I was aware of that, thank you very much. But I still think it's a good idea. I also think daily exercise is a good idea, and that's not in the Constitution.  In fact, the First Amendment makes no mention of “separation,” “church,” or “state,” in any order or combination. The First Amendment puts no limit on religion at all. Instead, it limits the governments ability to interfere in religion, and permanently codifies our right to the “free exercise thereof.” And you don't think that the government telling people when to have days of prayer or repentance is interference in religion? Anyway, once again, I am aware of all that. You are not addressing ANY of my points.
When Thomas Jefferson used the notorious phrase “Separation of Church and State” in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, he was describing a one-sided wall where the corruption of the Government could not infiltrate and infect the operations of the Church.  See Real Argument above about why not keeping religion out of government will pervert religion. He only chose those particular words because he was speaking to Baptists. He thought it might resonate with that crowd, considering the founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams, had written 150 years earlier about the need for a “wall of separation between the garden of the Church and the wilderness of the World.”  Oh, so the Founders solidified political bases by using religious rhetoric that would win over particular constituent groups.
So when the Supreme Court later used this letter to justify its legal opinion in Everson vs. Board of Education, it was really deciding case law based on part of a sentence written by a 17th century Baptist preacher. Methinks that wasn't the entire basis of their opinion.
Stellar work there, Your Honors.  Says the guy with no expertise in law.
Remember, the settlers were escaping a country that persecuted Catholics after King Henry VIII threw a hissy fit when the Pope wouldn’t change Canon Law to suit the king’s habit of divorcing and/or murdering his wives. The Crown was declared the “only supreme head of the Church in England,” and guys like Thomas More were summarily beheaded and chopped into pieces for refusing to recognize the king’s spiritual authority.
In other words, they were leaving a country where government had intruded on religion — not the other way around.  So explain to me how religion can enter the sphere of government without government then intruding on religion. How is this one-sidedness maintained?
But, my atheist friends, I think you know all of this. Or at least some of it.
This country was built by God fearing, slave-owning men and women who intended to enshrine and protect the very rights that could only come from God Himself. God has always been central to America, both officially and unofficially, publicly and personally. This is the incontrovertible truth. It is a historical reality, and not one that can be reasonably debated. Because Matt Walsh proclaimeth it can't reasonably be debated, that maketh it so!
If you would like to change America into something else, you are free to try. America has always been changing. When people wanted to abolish the slave economy, would you have said, "If you would like to change America into something else you are free to try. *sneer*"? But have the guts to admit what you are doing. Be honest. Looks like the pot's calling the kettle a liar.
And then we can all get Italian ice together.
Amen?  Well, I do like Italian ice. But really, I just wanted you to address real arguments.

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