For context of this post, I’d recommend a series of other posts, and I’ll place them in into a recommended reading order too – Constitutional Insurgent’s original post, Citizen Tom’s reply, my original post, and Tom’s response to me.
Are there efforts to impress Christianity upon poor innocent Atheists? Of course, there is. Christians have a Biblical directive to spread the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, we organize and spend a fair amount of our own money and time telling our neighbors about Jesus. There is nothing unconstitutional about it. Christian preaching deprives no one of their rights, and even government officials have the right to make proclamations about their belief in God. After all, what kind of country wants to deprive its leaders of the right of freedom of speech? How would one do something so dumb without doing more harm than good?
I don’t seem to recall saying Christians couldn’t talk about their faith. Indeed, Christians of every denomination talk about their faith. They have locations dedicated to it, locations that in some cases, make huge amounts of money, and wield considerable influence in local politics. That is where the initial objection lies. The separation of Church and State is a bulwark against the dominance of any one religion (or version of a religion) becoming the format for everyone else’s lives. I wonder how Tom would feel if Islam, or Hinduism, or any religion other than Christianity, had the same sort of presence within US politics?
34 US State Constitutions reference God on multiple occasions, and all but four mention God at least once. A handful of states even have rules on their books that forbid non-Christians from entering political office (not enforced, but they shouldnt even be in the rules). The steady influence of Christianity, the move to impress it upon society at various levels, via well-funded and organised efforts, is very much a fact. The lines between Church and State are getting increasingly blurred. If US politicians are to gain favour with the electorate, they must talk a lot about their Christian beliefs.
So, the voice of religion in US society – particularly Christianity – is alive and we. It is very much a part of the US political scene. There are arguments that it is holding an ever-increasing degree of influence, but more on that later.
Yet Berwick goes on about the huge numbers of private schools, and he tells us that nearly 50 percent are Christian-based! What Berwick fails to mention is that the vast majority still send their children to “free” public schools. The alternative is that most parents both pay taxes to support the “free” public schools and pay to send their children to private schools. I say most parents because a few states have finally reversed the trend. Instead of wasting more and more money on government-run education, some elected officials are trying to give parents a real choice as to where they choose to educate their children.
I never alluded to the idea that private schools made up the majority of US schools. I merely pointed out that a significant percentage of private schools are Christian schools. The freedom (or lack thereof) of parents to send kids to such schools comes down to money, which is another major driving factor behind so many US problems (I’ve written about the differences between private and public education systems here). US churches often have a great deal of money (faith-based organisations, and even some individuals within these organisations, pay very little tax), yet also want state funding for private schools, which brings me back to the blurring of the lines I mentioned earlier. These organisations rally against what they consider to be an anti-Christian attitude within public schools, yet contribute very little to the purse, so to speak. It’s a bit like someone complaining they aren’t given a fair say on where to go on holiday with their friends, when the rest of the group are putting in more money, time, and effort to organise everything. Worse, this friend has money, and spends it on private trips on his own, and then still expects his friends to help chip in with his choices.
We call allowing parents to choose where they send their children to school. “school choice.” Why would school choice be a terrifying concept to the supposedly prochoice, to people who believe in the “right” to abort a child? Are the supposedly prochoice actually in favor of choice or only in favor what they think the correct choice?
What is the most notable feature of those “free” public schools, other than the fact that they are government monopolies that do not do of good job of educating children? Government-run schools promote Secularism. That includes educating children in Wokeism, Humanism, Critical Race Theory, Multiculturalism, Environmentalism, Transgenderism, Socialism and various other Secular religious beliefs. Is it the correct choice to insist that all children learn all these various isms, religious beliefs?
I’m not aware of anyone being worried by the freedom to choose schools. If someone wishes to send their child to a faith school, they have the freedom to do so. If faith schools are expensive, is that the fault of the state? The bottom line is, freedom of choice is catered for, and it’s up to faith schools to make themselves more accessible. After all, that’s the point of the 1st Amendment right? The government isn’t getting involved in the affairs of religious institutions. That means faith schools are on their own. You can’t have it both ways.
As for the second paragraph, I find this to be entirely subjective. Secularism is defined as the separation of religion from civic affairs and the affairs of the state. It’s not a subject in and of itself. The US federal government places education into state hands, so there isn’t a ‘government monopoly’ as such, and the US education system’s biggest weakness would be a lack of funding (or funding that fails to rise with inflation). I’m not sure what precisely leads Tom to conclude the US education system is ‘woke’ (nor why being woke is such a bad thing), because stuff like critical race theory is worth discussing. Environmental issues will be among the most critical issues of the next generation. Informing children about the reality of the world can only be a good thing.
Religious beliefs? Why should we call all those various Secular isms religious beliefs? Instruction in these isms and theories is designed to instill specific values in our children. Our values are based upon our religious beliefs. Just as belief in Biblical truth leads to a belief in a certain set of values so does Secularism, just vastly differing values.
The notion that we should conflate these teachings as being a form of religious preaching is, not surprisingly, not one I can get behind. Teaching facts, history (real history, not versions sanitised for the benefit of white people), the reality of the existence of climate change, information about world views other than one’s own… none of that is remotely like religious preaching. Secularism, as already mentioned, simply means the separation of religion from civic affairs. There’s nothing more to it.
Whereas Christians believe in loving our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and loving our neighbor as we love our self; non-Christians tend to idolize the stuff they want, sexual pleasure, scientific knowledge that supports what they want to believe, an almighty state that gives them what they want, and their pride in their self.
Does that sound harsh? Are Christians that great? Are non-Christians that awful? The world is not black and white. It is not even shades of grey. God gave us a beautiful and colorful earth, and people vary. Not everyone who calls himself a Christian has committed their self to living as Jesus would have us live. Not every non-Christian refuses to love God and neighbor.
Science deals with facts. It supports only facts. Religion tends to be more about believing what one wants (or has been indoctrinated) to believe. Tom believes that God created the universe, and believes in the Biblical account of this. I know people who argue the Bible is corrupt, and superceded by the Quran, which is the ‘truth’. There’ll be others who take a different view, as per the lens of their holy texts. There are even plenty of internal disagreements among Christians (some for example, insist the Bible is literal truth, the earth is a few thousand years old, and they hold to that, in the face of numerous forms of scientific evidence that says otherwise).
Tom is certainly right that people are nuanced, irrespective of beliefs. I have had the fortune to know good religious people (the worshippers of the Church of England location where I got married are among the nicest people I’ve ever met), and the misfortune to know people like Silence of Mind.
Nevertheless, we can be utterly brutal. Even our own land we can shut everyone down, in some states for a couple of years, in response to a hysterical fear, COVID-19. We deprived our own children, even though it quickly became apparent that the virus had little effect upon children, of the opportunity to go to school and socialize with each other. We even made toddlers wear masks, and those masks did those children no good. In our hysteria and in our prideful refusal to admit an obvious error, we did more harm than good. That is, our national response to COVID-19 demonstrated very little Christian humility or neighborly love.
Unfortunately, abuse of the weak is nothing new, and we do far worse than make children wear masks. For decades Secularists have forced people who think the abortion of an unborn child is murder — essentially human sacrifice — to pay for the damned procedure. Even if we can convince our self that the abortion of an unborn child is not murder, what is the point of making those who think abortion is murder help pay for it? Where is the need?
In what manner do people pay for abortions against their will? My understanding of the US healthcare system is that, despite progress in the area, it is still largely a private enterprise, where people pay eye-watering bills, or have to take out expensive insurance policies. In the wake of recent developments (the repeal of Roe vs Wade, perhaps the most obvious demonstration of religious interference into the affairs of state to date), it is now entirely possible for doctors to refuse to perform abortions, on religious grounds.
This has serious consequences for women’s health. I have long lamented how organised religion treats women. I don’t single out Christianity here, because other religions have strange views on women too. In the case of the US though, I can’t help but wonder about how Christian fundamentalism hurts women. There are cases of children being forced to give birth, despite the extreme risks to their health and lives.
To quote from a previous post of mine, and from a link regarding the dangers of forcing underage girls to give birth:
We live in a nation that has been largely secularized. Most people don’t even know what the Bible says, but Berwick still complains about those mean and nasty Christians picking on him. Why? That is what the public school system and the mass media have taught us to do.
Berwick’s enemy is made of straw. Fortunately, when we actually take the time to examine what we have been taught, we begin to realize that.
*Shrug* I’m not entirely sure how I was complaining (though if we want to talk about nasty Christians, I believe Tom is well acquainted with SoM). It may not be to his liking, but the reality is, Christians are pushing – and getting – more and more of a say in what should be secular affairs. There is a reason the Constitution was written as it was. There is a history behind it, behind why people fled Europe for the Americas in the first place. The erosion of this barrier is an insidious act, and should not be ignored.
UPDATE 17/11/22: Tom had provided a link to an earlier post of, and upon examining this post, I thought it might be interesting to explore it, and how it relates to our current discussion. He suggested that my ‘enemy’ is made of straw. I would suggest my concerns are entirely valid.
All Christians believe God speaks through the Bible. In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis shows us how much Christians share in common about their beliefs. Lewis’s work systematically covers such topics as divinity of Jesus and His resurrection, virtue, sexual morality, marriage, forgiveness, sin, and faith, hope, and charity.
Do not almost all Christian recite similar versions of the Apostle’s Creed? Do not all Christians pray as Jesus taught (Matthew 6:5-15)? Then why are Christian Fundamentalists singled out for revilement? Well, I do not believe Christian Fundamentalists are singled out for revilement. Instead, I think Christian Fundamentalists serve as a straw men for battering the Christian faith itself.
For those who would be their own god and set their own standards of behavior, Christianity offers a resounding repudiation. The Christian example proclaims that God has set standards for us to live by. Whether a fundamentalist or not, the example set by a believing Christian shames those who do not practice Christianity. The Christian need not offer any judgment; the conscious God gave each of us judges us, and we find ourselves found wanting. Pride demands retribution.
Indeed, all Christians share certain traits. All believe that Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified. All believe he was virgin-born. All believe in an all-powerful God. As something of an aside, the differences between different forms of Christianity are relatively minor, yet they have been enough for centuries of violence between them (just look at the conflicts between Protestants and Catholics).
However, to focus on the meat of Tom’s words (and no, I’m not quoting the entirety of the post, just the parts I feel are relevant, you can read it at the link if you want), there is firstly Tom’s notion that tackling fundamentalism is a strawman, an excuse to persecute Christianity as a whole.
I don’t agree. The fundamentalists are often by far and away the loudest ones of any group/religion. They create the majority of the problems, and they get the majority of the attention. The good Christians (of which there are many, as I have mentioned across countless posts on this blog) are not the subject of my arguments, and in numerous previous posts, I have gone to some lengths to distinguish them from the fundamentalists. I have done the same thing when discussing other religions too. I would wager most people are aware of a distinction between moderate and fundamentalist voices. I believe for that reason, most people do focus on fundamentalists, and not the overall faith.
Of course, some people will take a blanket approach, and tar everyone with the same brush (I’ve seen a lot of that directed towards atheists lately, from certain sources). That’s wrong, though I understand why it happens. The text of the Bible makes it clear as to why fundamentalists believe what they believe, and preach what they preach. Organised religion as a whole is not a cruel or evil entity, but nor can it be said it’s done no harm. Creationism is taught as a scientific alternative to evolution in 13 US states, and this is funded by state (ie public) money. This is also a Christian form of creationism, why not teach the creation theories of other religions? This happens because Christian fundamentalism has a lot of power, and most other Christians are content to be silent, in the wake of that power.
Tom also suggests that the Christian life puts others to shame. That’s purely subjective. Tom has no idea about the quality or experiences of my life, nor I of his. He cannot judge my life as inferior, and I will not judge his as such.