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Hostility to Atheists in the 1991 GSS.--

Eugene is correct about public hostility to atheists and the willingness to admit discriminatory feelings against them. In 1991, the General Social Survey asked 1244 respondents this question (variable POLSGOD):

How much do you agree or disagree with each of the following?: Politicians who do not believe in God are unfit for public office.

RESULTS:

15% Strongly Agree
15% Agree
27% Neither Agree Nor Disagree
31% Disagree
11% Strongly Disagree

Note that 30% think that atheists are "unfit for public office," and only 42% actively disagree with the statement that they are unfit.

By comparison, in the 1991 GSS, 90.5% of Americans said that they would vote for a qualified black for President if nominated by their party. Similarly, 91.4% of Americans said that they would vote for a qualified woman for President if nominated by their party. The difference for atheists is stark.

In looking at some demographic breakdowns, there is no difference in tolerance of atheists between Republicans and Democrats, but there is between conservatives and liberals, with liberals being significantly more tolerant. Also, whites are significantly more tolerant of atheists than African Americans.

All this emphasizes for me how different the law teaching world is, where atheists (such as myself) are strongly over-represented and Christians, particularly fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, are strongly under-represented.

Justin (mail):
It's discrimination!!!!

::end snark::
12.12.2005 9:00pm
Cornellian (mail):
I seem to recall that even the much demonized gay people did better in that survey than atheists. Remarkable really. I don't know why there's such public hostility towards atheists. I've met several and they don't seem any different than anyone else. I suppose if you believe that morality is dictated by God then perhaps the inference is that an atheist is more likely to be immoral, since he doesn't believe there's a God telling him to act morally. That's not very convincing to me, mostly because believing in God doesn't seem to deter anyone from anything.
12.12.2005 9:32pm
A Theist:
Maybe it has something to do with so many athiests, when discoursing on or revealing their atheism in conversation, come across as a******s!

Some of the nastiest people in the world (like Penn of Penn&Teller) are these in your face athiests whose only goal is to offend.

Just my two cents. I'm sure you're a peach, Jim!
12.12.2005 9:40pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Do you really not see a difference between refusing to vote for a black or female candidate and refusing to vote for an atheist?
12.12.2005 9:43pm
A Theist:
How is this any different from not wanting to elect one of those annoying "disciples of Ayn Rand" we all knew and loved in law school?

I guess that's bigotry and discrimination against someone's belief system too.
12.12.2005 10:00pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
This survey is even worse for feelings about atheists, and it may be because we are talking politicians and not just they guy down the block.

Just a hunch, but maybe the reason that this survey is so bad for atheists is that by the very nature of a democratic republic (or whatever you want to call what we have here in the U.S.), you have to trust the politicians whom you elect to do the right thing. And those of us who are not atheistic probably trust someone who is religious much more than someone who is an atheist because we know and understand what we think is their core morality. So, I think we trust them more than we do an athiest whom we don't know to do the right thing - because for the most part, we don't know what the he uses as his base for his morality.

And maybe, some believe that at least some atheists are devoid of morals.

Note though that a lot of this argument is based on the fact that we don't know the politicians at issue, so have to find some reason to trust him/her. But this is much less operative with people we know. There, you can look them in the eye, or look at their past actions and see if they appear to be moral or not. And, so, I would expect that the religious among us would be a lot more trusting of the atheists we know, than the ones we don't know.
12.12.2005 10:02pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
A Theist

Or maybe it is bigotry against what is assumed to be a lack of a belief system.
12.12.2005 10:03pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Survey questions such as this force you to answer questions that don't really mean much to you. It would seem that if, amongst the answers, the last choice was, "Who gives a rat's a**!" that the results would be different and perhaps more illuminating.
12.12.2005 10:07pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
There is no connection between black skin and American culture, or between gender and American culture.

But God, especially a Judeo-Christian understanding of God, has been part of American culture since Jametown. "In God We Trust" is on every piece of our money. "One Nation under God" is in our Pledge of Allegiance. Christmas is federal holiday, almost universally celebrated in our culture...etc, etc. Theism is a core part of our culture and history - and atheists, unlike Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc., consciously reject it. So they are objectively in a different category.
12.12.2005 10:08pm
Commenterlein (mail):
Bruce,

I think you hit the nail on the head with your hypothesis why most people prefer to vote for someone religious over an atheist. Religious people likely believe that other religious people are more likely to act morally and to be trustworthy, and hence they vote for them.

The really interesting question that follows is whether this belief by religious people about other religious people in general and religious politicians in particular is rational and based on empirical evidence, or simply a self-serving prejudice. Said differently, your hypothesis can either be a defense of the sentiment expressed in the survey, or an indictment, depending on whether religious politicians are in fact more or less likely to act morally.

My personal impression is that the alleged link between religion and moral behavior / trustworthiness is tenuous at best.
12.12.2005 10:11pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Commenterlein, there is no objective definition of "moral" if there is no trancendent source for a moral standard, ie God. It becomes subjective, like "that woman is pretty" - to each his own. That's a bit off topic though.

The comparison of largely Judeo-Christian America with the Marxist/atheist-police-state-of-your-choice seems to offer some pretty good emperical evidence.
12.12.2005 10:22pm
Tbag (mail) (www):
Editors: So the Religion Clauses should only protect Judeo-Christian religious groups?

What about religions founded after the union was formed. Clearly the founders didn't have Mormons in mind. But that's a JC-based religious group. Are they also "objectively different?"

You should also do some research on Deism as a belief system quite prevalent in the late 18th century and decide if you think it's truly "Judeo-Christian" and then note some of it's proponents and their influence on our union.

Oh...and "One nation, under God" was added to the pledge under Eisenhower, not at the founding.
12.12.2005 10:31pm
breen (mail):

The comparison of largely Judeo-Christian America with the Marxist/atheist-police-state-of-your-choice seems to offer some pretty good emperical evidence.

This does yield a pretty good result, but is a bit like comparing liberals to dog-raping, necrophiliac conservatives. Adding qualifiers diminishes the usefulness of the comparison. How about a comparison between Judeo-Christian American and Scandinavia? What kind of empirical evidence does that provide with regards to morality vis a vis important social indicators?
12.12.2005 10:46pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Tbag, what "religion clauses" protect atheists from individual Americans having an unfavorable view of them? What are you talking about? You may reread what I wrote and note I said "culture" not "government".

Mormons do not reject the religious roots of American culture, so they obviously are not different. Diests don't reject the religious roots of our nation either. The Declaration of Independence references God. Read Washington's first inaugural, or his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789. To say that religion is a big part of American history and culture is simply stating the obvious.


Oh...and "One nation, under God" was added to the pledge under Eisenhower, not at the founding.

Since no one implied otherwise, not sure what your point is.
12.12.2005 10:53pm
tiefel & lester student (mail):
Editors:

There is nothing inconsistent with an atheist who recognizes that theism in some form has played an important part in American history. It still isn't clear to me why a present rejection of God disqualifies someone from public office.

Also, any reason why the email listed on your comments is different from the email on your website?
12.12.2005 11:01pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
In looking at some demographic breakdowns, there is no difference in tolerance of atheists between Republicans and Democrats, but there is between conservatives and liberals, with liberals being significantly more tolerant. Also, whites are significantly more tolerant of atheists than African Americans.

Which proves that Condi Rice would win in a heartbeat, if the GOP had sense enough to nominate her.

Personally, I suspect that that outcome is an interaction of two factors mentioned in the comments.

1. The fact that atheistis mentioned in the media are generally filing lawsuits to suppress things that most folks like, or at least have no objection to, and are thus the 1% most contentious and, dare I say it, obnoxious, of the group. This is a problem not by any means unique to them (altho, as one commentor suggests, one that would be shared by the Ayn Rand worshippers if the general media knew who she was and gave that group equal tratement).

2. A general associaton of atheists with unprincipled types (I won't use the term amoralists, since as Neitzsche pointed out, theism and morality can be consistent). This does have at least some rational association, since for thousands of years morality has been associated with belief in some higher force dictating rules and enforcing them. And in fact the association of that which we can define as morality, and that which we can define as religious upbringing, does have some non-rational link (i.e., the belief in human equality, when no two humans are equivalent, is hard to justify absent belief in a soul, which is nice but cannot be documented or proven).
12.12.2005 11:01pm
breen (mail):
Criticizing atheists because of the activists you see on TV is a lot like criticizing homosexuals because of the cast of Queer Eye. In fact, you might have an atheist in your family and not even know it. It might be. . . your own son!!!!!
12.12.2005 11:08pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
As has been pointed out, being an atheist doesn't mean denying the importance of religion in the founding of the country. Indeed, on this blog I've defended the originalist view of establishment clause, that the establishment clause did NOT embrace a separation of church and state. For my defense of the original (non-separationist) meaning of the establishment clause, I took some criticism from those who are not up to speed on the best scholarship on the founding period.

Jim Lindgren
12.12.2005 11:20pm
Bobbie:
I hope to God you're not referring to your citation of Hamburger's book, which has been torn to shreds by real scholars, including Doug Laycock.

About the only thing Hamburger proved is that the phrase "separation of church and state" is a meaningless catch phrase.
12.12.2005 11:48pm
mikem (mail):
It would be interesting to see the results of polling among atheists regarding their consideration of religious beliefs among candidates as a deciding or even excluding factor. I suspect that atheists would be shown to be even less tolerant than those whose views they habitually disdain as ignorant. Just a guess.
How many professed atheists could honestly say they do not take the religious beliefs of a given candidate into account? Did the derisive "Jesusland" map come out of thin air?
12.13.2005 12:03am
taalinukko:
One of the things that I wondered about is the argument that you should trust a religious politician over an atheist. It would seem to me that someone who is in the position of receiving divine forgiveness for any sins they commit in office might not be as trustworthy as someone who has to face the repercussions in this world.

It always struck me a somewhat scary that so many devout people basically argue that if there was not god they would be out raping and pillaging the countryside. Honestly, I would lead the same life regardless of how the god questions was decided tomorrow. I hope this is just a bad bit of rhetoric that get overly repeated and I am not living among a bunch of restrained sociopaths ;-)
12.13.2005 12:05am
breen (mail):

I suspect that atheists would be shown to be even less tolerant than those whose views they habitually disdain as ignorant

I bet not. I bet atheists have, not theoretically, voted for infinitely more theists than the other way around. I would hazard to guess that most atheists would not place the candidates' religion as high on their list of voting issues as would theists confronted with atheist candidates.
12.13.2005 12:08am
Taeyoung J. (mail):

It would seem to me that someone who is in the position of receiving divine forgiveness for any sins they commit in office might not be as trustworthy as someone who has to face the repercussions in this world.

Um, okay. But why would an atheist have to face the repercussions in this world? Not all atheists believe there's some kind of karmic thing that guarantees we'll get ours for all the awful evil things we do before we die. If we die, that's it, no? (well, for most of us.)

Well, what I'm trying to say here is: The comparison is faulty. The proper comparison is retribution in the afterlife (with extreme unction or what-have-you pro remissionem peccatorum) vs. nothing at all.

I think.
12.13.2005 12:14am
Brandon Berg (mail) (www):
I seem to recall that even the much demonized gay people did better in that survey than atheists.

I'm not sure if it was the same survey, but I had a textbook back in '98 that had a graph showing the results of a similar survey. I remember looking at it and thinking, "Well, at least we beat the homosexuals."
12.13.2005 12:19am
anonymous22:
Atheists are people who have left their religion. They are apostates. So of course people belonging to other religions are going to look unfavorably to them! Christianity believes it has discovered absolute truth, and wishes to retain its members, so it of course will come down harshly on those who have left the flock.

I object to the reductivist comparison of religions, which is premised on the idea that all religions are essentially the same, meaning they are all essentially like Christianity. To poll "prejudice" against religion is to make this assumption. People tolerate Christianity, so a priori they should tolerate things that are superficially similar to Christianity. Religions have varying notions of morality and varying attitudes toward other religions. This entire discussion proves absolutely nothing.
12.13.2005 12:29am
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
tiefel &lester student,

I didn't say anyone should be disqualified. I was merely describing the distinction, not advocating anything.

Either email goes to the same place.
12.13.2005 12:33am
Jim Lindgren (mail):
Bobbie:

I know both Laycock and Hamburger--and both are indeed brilliant professors (Laycock was a colleague of mine for my semester visit at Texas in 1995 and we got along well then).

But I read Laycock's review of Hamburger's book in the Univ. of Chicago Law Review and I find Laycock's attack on Hamburger's work tendentious and extremely weak in substance. Despite Laycock's rhetorical skills as a lawyer, I just don't see the depth of understanding of the period that he would need to take on someone like Hamburger (who is the best Americanist of the period IMO and has twice won a prize for the year's best work in English legal history).

For example, no one whom I've read approaches Hamburger's skills in archival research in the founding period. The evidence that Hamburger uncovered on ground one would have thought well trod is remarkable. Laycock, on the other hand, lacks Hamburger's research skills and thus mostly reworks Hamburger's evidence adding his own spin or relies on long-known evidence.

In short, the idea that Laycock has torn Hamburger to shreds is ridiculous. Before tearing someone to shreds, one has to show that Hamburger is wrong in several of his major claims. As a first step, would you mind pointing out a single significant error of Hamburger's that Laycock found (not Laycock's strongly expressed opinions, but an actual major historical error)?

Good history proceeds mostly on evidence.

Jim Lindgren
12.13.2005 12:39am
Taeyoung J. (mail):

Atheists are people who have left their religion.

Really? News to me. Well, unless religion is carried in the blood somehow. I wasn't raised Christian or Buddhist or animist or anything at all.
12.13.2005 12:47am
Smithy (mail):
I don't have a problem with atheists but it seems that they are so militant in general. They don't celebrate Christmas, so they want to make it so that no one can celebrate Christmas. I have a problem with that.
12.13.2005 1:19am
Ari:
anonymous22 said: "Atheists are people who have left their religion."

I think there's a grain of truth in this sentiment. Prejudice against religion is clearly different from racial/gender prejudice, since people have control over their beliefs but not over which race/gender they were born. However, religion is strongly influenced by the environment in which one was raised. A religious Christian may not agree with the precise beliefs of a religious Jew, but he can say, "Well, he's Jewish because he was raised that way. At least he has a good religious core and recognizes the importance of faith." They can imagine that, but for the details of their upbringing, the two of them are not all that different. (You say tomato, I say tomah-to, you say Jesus, I say Yahweh ... let's call the whole thing off!)

While this is true among various faiths, it is not (in my experience) true of atheism. Most atheists I know (myself included) were raised in a particular faith, but chose to consciously reject it. Atheists can rarely hide behind the "I was just raised that way" excuse -- most have actively decided that people of faith have it completely wrong. Naturally, religious people don't take too kindly to this.

Cheers,
Ari
12.13.2005 1:25am
mikem (mail):
"I bet not. I bet atheists have, not theoretically, voted for infinitely more theists than the other way around."

This is counterintuitive. How many public discussions took place about the religious beliefs of various candidates as compared to discussions about the lack of faith of candidates? I can't recall a single candidate attacked as an atheist or an agnostic, at least not in the public domain. I can certainly recall attacks on candidates for their faith, especially for the big bugaboo, "too much faith".
Your view, in itself, seems to be a matter of faith.
12.13.2005 1:34am
Kipli:
Smithy:


I don't have a problem with atheists but it seems that they are so militant in general. They don't celebrate Christmas, so they want to make it so that no one can celebrate Christmas. I have a problem with that.


Can you please provide some evidence for the claim that "they want to make it so that no one can celebrate Christmas"?
12.13.2005 2:57am
aop (mail):

I can't recall a single candidate attacked as an atheist or an agnostic, at least not in the public domain.


Snort. Maybe that's because an atheist/agnostic candidate in America can't get elected to any office more important than county dog catcher. You know, because believing in an invisible magic friend/wish-granter is apparently more important to the voting public than intelligence or experience, a fact that we need not look farther than King Jesus Bush the Lesser to confirm. Oh, but he speaks about his faith with such conviction!
12.13.2005 3:21am
Jim Lindgren (mail):
I have been surprised by the strangeness of the assumptions about atheists:


I don't have a problem with atheists but it seems that they are so militant in general. They don't celebrate Christmas, so they want to make it so that no one can celebrate Christmas. I have a problem with that.



I am an atheist who loves Christmas. We always drive a long way to go to a tree farm with a good selection, so we can cut down a great tree. We have a terrific ornament collection (and I picked up the 1971 Biedermann ornamnent this season on Ebay). I play Christmas (brass) music on the CD player, and we sometimes sing carols in the car. One of our Jewish neighbors (a 4-year-old) loves to come over to see our tree. And so on.

Indeed, my daughter converted to Christianity in high school after she read Dante. We don't interfere with this in the slightest.

Christmas just doesn't mean the same thing to me as it does to many others commenting here.
12.13.2005 3:49am
mikem (mail):
"You know, because believing in an invisible magic friend/wish-granter is apparently more important to the voting public than intelligence or experience, a fact that we need not look farther than King Jesus Bush the Lesser to confirm."

I rest my case. Tolerance indeed.
12.13.2005 4:17am
Jeroen Wenting (mail):
"I don't have a problem with atheists but it seems that they are so militant in general. They don't celebrate Christmas, so they want to make it so that no one can celebrate Christmas. I have a problem with that."

Most atheists are no more militant than most Christians, Budhists, or Hindus (I deliberately leave out Islam here, they DO seem to have an overly large percentage of militant followers).

But this "poll" is basically flawed. It doesn't make a distinction between atheists and agnostics (as do most of the people posting here), considering them both to be the same thing.
Atheists believe religiously in the non-existence of god, agnostics keep an open mind until they get solid evidence one way or the other.

"Maybe that's because an atheist/agnostic candidate in America can't get elected to any office more important than county dog catcher. You know, because believing in an invisible magic friend/wish-granter is apparently more important to the voting public than intelligence or experience"

Not true. If you're smart enough to fake the right religion you can go places.
Look at Billy the Kid Clinton and his suppreme commander wife as prime examples. Believers in the twin gods of Marxism/Leninism they veigned Christian beliefs to get to the White House and made it. They might even make it again, giving the first (de facto) female president of the USA her third term in office (something not allowed under US law btw.).
12.13.2005 5:24am
Davod (mail):
I echo the sentiments of an earlier post. I do not have a problem with most atheists. I do have a problem with anyone who attempts to force their point of view on anyone else.
12.13.2005 7:24am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Jim Lindgren writes that as an atheist

Christmas just doesn't mean the same thing to me as it does to many others commenting here.


A closer look would find many religious events mean different things to many different people. To some they represent the nominal value (commemorating a birth or a miracle), to others, members of the faith or not, it represents a focal point for the social bonds of the community, or simply, as with Jim, the trappings of the season.

We're complex enough that they can have multiple conflicting meanings simultaneously (as in, "that time of year when the Christians put out really nice decorations and music and food, which is very good just as it's getting dark and cold, but they sometimes go overboard, forgetting or ignoring not only that not everybody celebrates their holidays, but also that not so long ago they were trying to convert us with violence, and even now our children are losing their heritage to competition with the mainstream majority culture.")
12.13.2005 7:41am
breen (mail):
Mike, my view is based on facts. This thread is started by a poll that shows many Americans wouldn't vote for an atheist. Unless atheists have abstained from voting, it is obvious an overwhelming number of atheists have voted for religious candidates (since all are). Antagonistic views towards candidates' religion is on a whole different level than the belief that they can't be voted for because of their religion.
12.13.2005 9:06am
MDLawStudent (mail):
Perhaps I'm missisng something, but why should there be agita regarding anyone basing a vote on the basis of the candidate's ideas and beleifs? Don't we vote for public officials who we think will favor policies to make the cuontry/state/city conform as closely as possible to our ideals?

A theist's views of how society is organized will be shaped by his religious tenets. He would like to see a society that respects his religion and that foolows its falues. A conservative religious person faced with a choice between Dorothy Day and a conservative atheist certainly will have to vote for the lesser of two evils. Conversely, a liberal atheist would have the same dilemma. But, all other things being equal, most of us will vote for a candidate who validates any given belief of ours.
12.13.2005 9:37am
Smithy (mail):
"Can you please provide some evidence for the claim that "they want to make it so that no one can celebrate Christmas"?"

At a school in Wisconsin, the teachers were so afraid of getting attacked by the ACLU, that they had the children sing "Oh, Cold Night" instead of "Silent Night". And numerous towns have had to scale back or abandon their plans for a Christmas display for fear of being sued by the ACLU. That is, in essence atheists trying to stop Christians from celebrating Christmas.
12.13.2005 9:50am
sbw (mail) (www):
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, ..." - Thoreau.

What are you trying to accomplish with this thread? Critical thinking skills are not valued in our schools and society. You simply point out another example... and to no great end, I might add.
12.13.2005 10:07am
Smithy (mail):
Sbw, you simply throw out another insults...and to no great end, I might add.
12.13.2005 10:12am
Gary McGath (www):
This discussion is based on data which are 14 years old. Have things gotten better since then, or worse? My guess is that they've gotten worse (meaning more people would automatically disqualify atheists), but I could easily be wrong.

President Bush, Senior, went even further, suggesting that atheists shouldn't even be "considered citizens." As far as I know, at least the current Bush hasn't suggested that.
12.13.2005 10:14am
Smithy (mail):
President Bush, Senior, went even further, suggesting that atheists shouldn't even be "considered citizens."

That is obviously going way too far. I don't think you see anyone suggesting that now. For most Christians, the issue is atheists forcing their agenda on us, not any desire to deprive atheists of their citizenship. The founding fathers meant for this to be a Christian country, but they also meant for citizenship to be an inclusive right.
12.13.2005 10:19am
Preferred Customer:
Smithy wrote:

"'Can you please provide some evidence for the claim that
'they want to make it so that no one can celebrate Christmas?'

At a school in Wisconsin, the teachers were so afraid of getting attacked by the ACLU, that they had the children sing "Oh, Cold Night" instead of "Silent Night". And numerous towns have had to scale back or abandon their plans for a Christmas display for fear of being sued by the ACLU. That is, in essence atheists trying to stop Christians from celebrating Christmas."

It is, more accurately, Christians electing to scale back state-sponsored involvement in religious celebrations out of fear of potential litigation.

Whether I would agree or not with a particular decision to sue in the cases you mention a) depends on more facts than are provided, and b) is irrelevant in any event. Arguing that the State should not sponsor religious observances is not the same as arguing that Christians should not celebrate Christmas.

Like Lindgren, I am an atheist who celebrates Christmas, because it's a convenient time for a holiday, because I was raised doing it, because my whole (extended) family does it, and because I like it. Needless to say, the religious overtones of the holiday have no meaning for me, but that's not so different from those Christians who adopt pagan symbology in their Christmas celebrations (such as the Christmas tree) without attributing to it the original meaning.

Nor is it so different from Christians electing, in the first instance, to celebrate the birth of the Savior in late December, during the time of traditional feasts and celebrations, despite the fact that there is no evidence suggesting that Jesus was actually born that day.
12.13.2005 10:20am
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
In the end we vote for real candidates, not abstractions. In '00 your choice was Bush or Gore, in '04 it was Bush or Kerry, etc.

As a Christian, I'd be much more comfortable voting for an atheist with Mr. Lindgren's view of the Constitution than for some "it's a living, breathing document" liberal who goes to church every week.

The devil is in the details as they say. :)
12.13.2005 10:27am
JosephSlater (mail):
WIthout getting into the merits of whether public schools should be sponsoring pageants, etc., that reflect the beliefs of one particular religion, I would note that the ACLU brings these suits not because their members are all atheists or on behalf of atheists. Jews and members of other, non-Christian religions, often object to explicitly Christian material at required school events too.

As to prejudice against athiests, absolutely, it's clear that it exists in shockingly high degrees.
12.13.2005 10:32am
Smithy (mail):
the fact that there is no evidence suggesting that Jesus was actually born that day.

Obviously, most Christians realize that. The calendars of that era were highly irregular and there is really now way to know for sure what day Jesus was born on our calendar. And, yes, I've heard the argument that most likely the date was chosen to coincide with the pagan solstice festivals. Be that as it may, it is the day that millions of Christians celebrate the birth of Christ and, as such, it should be respected.
12.13.2005 10:32am
FlavaFlay:
I haven't looked too closely at the comments, but it seems that no one has examined the language of the questions. I'm a little curious about what would happen if the word "unfit" was replaced with "fit."

It seems to me that the typical formula of a poll question, one in which the neither agree nor disagree option represents true neutrality, has not been followed. I believe it is more than likely that in haste and incomplete comprehension, many of those who answered in that fashion believed they were answering that an atheist is no more fit or unfit than anyone else.

I think it is possible that if the word "fit" was used, it is possible for the results to have a mirror image effect in which roughly 30% of the respondents believe atheists are unfit and 42% believe atheists can be fit for office.
12.13.2005 10:34am
FlavaFlay:
Oh. I just saw Eugene's post. I guess I was just hoping for the best possible explanation... I still hope my interpretation is true!
12.13.2005 10:37am
Marcus1:
Smithy,

First of all, I don't believe any school has ever been legally prevented from singing Christmas carols. If those teachers did that, they were being silly, or trying to make a political point. That is no one's fault but their own.

As far as government Christmas displays, I'm not sure what the law is, but I know we have a pretty big tree here in Washington.

In any case, what's up with this idea that celebrating Christmas requires government involvement? You don't think private celebration is enough? You need the government to be involved, in an overtly religious manner? You must believe in a very big and powerful government.

I mean, that's tragic, really. When were you last able to celebrate Christmas, before atheists stepped in and ruined it?

Basically, you draw a hyper-exagerated conclusion from hyper-exagerated facts. It's called hype. Talk about people making a big deal out of petty injustices! If there is a group in America that is pushy in their beliefs, it certainly isn't atheists. You never even see them in public life!
12.13.2005 10:42am
JosephSlater (mail):
I should have added to a my earlier posts that many Christians also object to explicit Christian pageants, etc. in public schools, for a variety of good reasons.
12.13.2005 10:42am
Kipli:
Ah, yes, the ACLU. In addition to Preferred Customer's reply that the cases you mentioned are not indicative of atheists attempting to force Christians to stop celebrating Christmas, how about these other things that the American Civil Liberties Union has been involved in:

1) The ACLU consistently supports the rights of students to distribute religious literature in school, including, for example, the distribution of Christmas candy canes with religious messages.

2) The ACLU has filed suit in support of a second grader who wanted to sing "Awesome God" in a talent show.

3) The ACLU supported two women in their wrongful termination suit against a greyhound racetrack; the racetrack had fired them for refusing to work on Christmas.

4) The ACLU argued on behalf of a Christian church that wanted to place advertisements on Boston public transit; the ads decried the secularization of Christmas and even declared Christianity as the "one true religion".

You might think that the ACLU (or individual state chapters) argues for some strange things, and in some cases I might even agree with you. But to conflate the actions of the ACLU with those of atheists (or conversely) is misleading.

I've yet to see evidence of any atheist attempting to prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas. Your examples do not speak to that question.
12.13.2005 10:43am
Smithy (mail):
Marcus and Kipli, I have no doubt that the ACLU in many ways has good intentions. But due to their fixation with Christmas displays, a lot of Americans are practically afraid to say "Merry Christmas" or hold a Christmas party. Now, maybe these people are being paranoid, but that's the kind of climate the ACLU -- intentionally or not -- has helped foster.
12.13.2005 10:57am
SeanF (mail):
Note that 30% think that atheists are "unfit for public office," and only 42% actively disagree with the statement that they are unfit.

By comparison, in the 1991 GSS, 90.5% of Americans said that they would vote for a qualified black for President if nominated by their party. Similarly, 91.4% of Americans said that they would vote for a qualified woman for President if nominated by their party. The difference for atheists is stark.

I think you're making an unfair comparison based on those polls. If the question were asked, "Would you vote for a qualified atheist candidate if nominated by your party?", I suspect you'd get upwards of 90% saying, "Yes," too.

Party loyalty is pretty strong among some folks, and can override other concerns. :)
12.13.2005 10:59am
Bobbie:
Jim, history is more than fact gathering; Hamburger interprets his facts to support his thesis that the separation of church and state is a myth and that the policies under that phrase are constitutional mistakes. But, as Laycock writes in his review of Hamburger's book in the Chicago Law Review:

When [Hamburger] says the founding generation did not intend separation, he is plainly right as he uses the term. But he will inevitably be read to claim, and he does nothing to dispel the implication, that they did not intend separation at all—not as anyone uses the term. The book's dominant themes thus depend on a persistent slippage between Hamburger's meaning and more common meanings. He carefully documents a widely used nineteenth-century meaning, but he simply asserts, or assumes, that the concept had the same meaning in the eighteenth century, when he says it was rejected, and has that meaning at the turn of the twenty-first century, when he says it is dominant.



Moreover, it's fallacious to argue that anyone rejects the "separation of church and state," does not accept a specific policy of those who support separation. In other words, even if you reject the broad (and often meaningless) label of separation of church and state, that tells us nothing about whether you support pray in schools, government funding to religious organizations, etc. I think Hamburger is right (and I know Laycock thinks he's right) that proponents of separation try to get a lot more historical mileage out of that phrase than the record justifies. But even if that's true, it doesn't follow that a proper reading of the First Amendment doesn't support holding school prayer unconstitutional, etc. Hamburger makes this leap.

I'm perplexed why you think Professor Laycock lacks Hamburger's research skills given that he is one of, if not the, leading scholar in religious liberty and has penned a number of law review articles that discuss, in depth, the history of the religion clauses. In his review of Hamburger's book, he simply assumes that Hamburger's fact gathering is correct because there's no need to quibble with the minor details. Your response seems to assume that if Hamburger's facts are correct, his thesis follows. You're wrong.
12.13.2005 11:13am
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Marcus1,

In any case, what's up with this idea that celebrating Christmas requires government involvement?


No one said celebrating Christmas requires government involvement. At issue is whether the government is allowed to acknowledge a prominent and enduring cultural event.

Kipli, as a rule the ACLU is hostile to America's historical and cultural religious roots, especially when it comes to Christianity. Noting a few exceptions to the rule does not disprove the rule.

Here's one from our archives from a few years ago, noting a few examples of the ACLU double standard on religion in public institutions:
God Bless the ACLU

David Limbaugh wrote a book full of examples of religious intolerance from the left.
12.13.2005 11:31am
Smithy (mail):
In any case, what's up with this idea that celebrating Christmas requires government involvement?

At this point, I think that preserving Christmas will require government involvement. That's why I was happy to hear on the radio that the House is considering a Christmas Protection Act to ensure that cities, towns, and companies can have Christmas displays without being sued. There will also be some kind of federal matching funds for local displays if the bill passes. So if this is an issue you care about, I recommend that you call your representative and ask him or her to support this measure. (Note: I don't think it has been formally introduced yet, but hopefully it will be soon.)
12.13.2005 11:40am
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):

There will also be some kind of federal matching funds for local displays if the bill passes.


As a committed Christian who believes there's nothing whatsoever in the US Constitution that prohibits Christmas displays on public property, public school Christmas pageants, etc., -- "federal matching funds"? -- no way, not a chance. That's a terrible idea, for several reasons having nothing to do with religious content.
12.13.2005 12:02pm
Marcus1:
Editors,

>At issue is whether the government is allowed to acknowledge a prominent and enduring cultural event<

Is that what's at issue? Has it been stated that the government may not acknowledge Christmas or any other prominent and enduring cultural event?

The very strongest secular position I have ever seen advocated is that Christmas should not be promoted by the Goverment to a greater extent than other similar non-religious events. Just like the Ten Commandments should not be emphasized beyond their actual social or political significance, simply in an effort to promote religion. This is as rabid as the atheists get. I have never heard anybody claim that Christmas or the Ten Commandments or anything else may not be acknowledged, even by the government.

My question is this: Why do you feel a need to exagerate so much? The level of exageration on these issues reaches absurdity. "We can't even acknowledge Christmas." "We're not allowed to pray in school." "They're forcing their atheism on us." These kinds of statements are blatantly dishonest, simply serving to make people angry. Do you think this kind of exageration is the best way to serve the conservative cause?
12.13.2005 12:09pm
Ofc. Krupke (mail) (www):
but also that not so long ago they were trying to convert us with violence,

Not so long ago? What, like last week?

I'm not sure this poll is very important. It's too theoretical to measure actual attitudes - it's like all those polls that got hyped during the last election comparing President Bush to an "unnamed Democrat."

What use is that? What does it prove? This poll is forcing its respondents to be single-issue voters on religion, because that's all they're being told. Giving people only one characteristic of a theoretical candidate is of course going to encourage people to think in stereotypes of that characteristic, and to the extent that capitol-A Atheism has a public image, it's of noxious nags like Michael Newdow.

The high positives for Jews and African-Americans reflects people's widespread acknowledgment of the historical injustices those groups have been through, which makes negative opinions of them instinctively distasteful. Atheists don't have an equivalent history.

This poll is a very blunt instrument. Any resemblance to how people actually decide who to vote for is purely coincidental.
12.13.2005 12:09pm
anonymous coward:
Is this just an artifact of peculiar wording? Well, some nontrivial percentage of the population is atheist or agnostic. Has a public atheist or agnostic ever been elected to national office in the US? To a state legislature? [Insert Unitarian joke here.]

Of course, this may simply be a function of the widespread belief that atheists can't get elected: politically ambitious atheists assume they can't be honest, so they aren't open about their lack of faith. It's kind of like being an originalist for a Supreme Court nominee.
12.13.2005 12:35pm
Fishbane (mail):
That's why I was happy to hear on the radio that the House is considering a Christmas Protection Act to ensure that cities, towns, and companies can have Christmas displays without being sued. There will also be some kind of federal matching funds for local displays if the bill passes.

Oh, good lord. The O'Reillyization of the country is complete. Cook up a fake controversy and suddenly congress wants to start subsidizing tree farmers.
12.13.2005 12:49pm
taalinukko:
Taeyoung J.

Um, okay. But why would an atheist have to face the repercussions in this world? Not all atheists believe there's some kind of karmic thing that guarantees we'll get ours for all the awful evil things we do before we die. If we die, that's it, no? (well, for most of us.)

Well, what I'm trying to say here is: The comparison is faulty. The proper comparison is retribution in the afterlife (with extreme unction or what-have-you pro remissionem peccatorum) vs. nothing at all.


First, I think the atheist and reincarnation sets are necessarily disjoint but there might be some subtle reason they are not that is escaping me at the moment.

My point was the distinction between two presumably moral people. The first is someone who sees moral rules as begin the result of some lawgiver on high who will punish you for your transgressions in the afterlife (unless you say you are sorry or purchase an indulgence). The second would have had to arrive at their moral code through some other means, a simple one is the golden rule. However, this later person would not have the benefit of redemption if they violated their morals which were freely adopted.

This all gets at the questions of whether a coerced moral actor is truly acting in a moral manner. I know that I want my kids to do the right thing for its own sake, not because I will become angry with them. Add to this the promise of forgiveness for failing to adhere to that moral code, and the whole thing just strikes me as a bad basis for investing public trust in a person.
Remember the context of this discussion was the catagorical statment that "I see _______ as unfit for office."
12.13.2005 1:03pm
MaryC (mail):
I think a Christmas Protection Act is actually not a bad idea. Look at how litigious our society has become. It's really getting to the point where people are sueing just because their feelings are a bit hurt. If this is introduced, it'll help protect those businesses who are currently being intimidated out of using the word "Christmas".
12.13.2005 1:07pm
Smithy (mail):
"federal matching funds"? -- no way, not a chance.

I agree that may be going too far. But something needs to be done to protect people from these ACLU lawsuits.
12.13.2005 1:08pm
Smithy (mail):
Mary, have you heard any other news about the bill? All I have heard is that some Congressman's staff is drawing up a Christmas Protection Act, but I have heard very few details beyond what I mentioned earlier. I fear it may not be introduced in time to make much of a difference for this holiday season.
12.13.2005 1:11pm
Preferred Customer:
MaryC writes:

"I think a Christmas Protection Act is actually not a bad idea. Look at how litigious our society has become. It's really getting to the point where people are sueing just because their feelings are a bit hurt. If this is introduced, it'll help protect those businesses who are currently being intimidated out of using the word "Christmas".

Businesses are not state actors; no matter how expansively you read the establishment clause, I am unaware of any reading that extends to private businesses.

Arguing over abstractions is always difficult. If you have examples of specific businesses that have been "intimidated out of the using the word 'Christmas'" by the threat of suit, either by the ACLU or otherwise, please post them.

However, in the abstract, my sense is that businesses avoid exclusive references to specific religions for very solid, BUSINESS reasons. There are, after all, a non-trivial number of non-Christians out there, and since the objective of a business is generally to get as many people to purchase their products and services as possible, it makes sense to try and get non-Christians to buy in to the idea of a "Holiday Season" that they can celebrate (and buy gifts for) as well.
12.13.2005 1:23pm
Julian Morrison (mail):
Even the word "atheist", leaving aside the agnostics, is a bit broad brush. It clumps together the uninterested, those who don't believe in gods (but might believe in other things) and the full-on materialists.

For example I come into the second category - I do believe in various stuff, which just happens not to include gods.
12.13.2005 1:33pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Awhile back, someone questioned the religious faiths of the Clintons, and used that as an example of essentially Marxist / atheists getting elected. But that ignores that both of them very publically profess their Christianity. Whether you believe them is another story. But neither is a professed atheist, but is rather a professed Christian. Bill, of course, is Baptist, and Hillary, Methodist. Similarly, John Kerry has been accused of not following his church's tenets as to abortion, but, nevertheless, he professes to be Roman Catholic.

I think that it has been obvious to politicians for a long time now that their chances of getting elected, esp. to national office, are much, much, greater if they profess to follow an established religion. Luckily for all of us here in the U.S., that religion can now be Roman Catholicism, Judaism, or Mormonism, and not just Protestant Christianity.
12.13.2005 1:38pm
Smithy (mail):
Awhile back, someone questioned the religious faiths of the Clintons, and used that as an example of essentially Marxist / atheists getting elected. But that ignores that both of them very publically profess their Christianity. Whether you believe them is another story.

If you believed them, I've got some swamp land in a place called White Water I'd like to sell you.
12.13.2005 1:41pm
MaryC (mail):
However, in the abstract, my sense is that businesses avoid exclusive references to specific religions for very solid, BUSINESS reasons.


But businesses always used to reference Christmas, and seemed to be doing fine. They also reference Easter (for now, anyway) and seem to have no problem making money off of that. It just seems like there's a very oppresive atmosphere occurring, and I think that if a business or government office wants to use the word "Christmas", or include a nativity scene in their decorations, they should be able to do so without fear of reprisal. Something like a Christmas Protection Act would at least remove that fear. Nobody's saying that they couldn't also put up menorahs or any other seasonal decorations, but they shouldn't be intimidated out of using Christmas-specific greetings and decorations.
12.13.2005 2:04pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Since someone mentioned it, here is a problem I have w/ Hamburger's overall work.

The bottom line is this:

1) He rejects "Separation of Church and State" as a founding metaphor. And it's too important and central to liberal democracy to do that. He rather seems to argue against a more rigid, ACLU absolutist notion of the doctrine and does not really distinguish between the absolutist notion of separation and what separation might mean in a more general, realistic sense. But a proper understanding of the history and philosophy of not just America's Founding, but of liberal democracy in general, shows that Separation of Church and State is too important to our system to reject as a metaphor.

2) In reading the Constitution, in context, it was revolutionary for its time in the way that it took a "hands off" approach to religion (didn't empower religion in a document that was b/n explicitly enumerated powers), did not covenant with the Christian God or really mention God at all, and protected religious rights in Art. VI and the First Amendment.

3) Thus a "Separation of Church and State" of some important sort, clearly is found in the Constitution, just as a "Separation of Powers" is also clearly found in the Constitution.

4) But wait, neither the terms "Separation of Church and State" or "Separation of Powers" are found in the Constitution.

5) And, just as we clearly don't have an absolute "Separation of Powers" we also don't have an absolute "Separation of Church and State." Think about the many ways in which the Powers of government do and must cooperate together.

6) Finally, just as Separation of Powers, in the real sense that we have it, was a revolutionary enactment of liberal democracy, so too was Separation of Church and State.

Liberal democratic theory, as articulated by Hobbes, Locke and our Founders, draws a clear distinction between duties and proper roles of both the state and religion (thus separates Church and State). Militiant Islam, for instance, draws little or none. And we know what those societies are like.

Before liberal democracy, in the West, it was similar to Islam. Indeed our pre-liberal democratic colonies in America saw fit to write the text of the Bible wholesale into the civil law. And the disastrous results were Biblical codes which among other things had the death penalty on the books for openly worshipping false gods and burning witches at the stake.

Founding natural rights theory holds that all men, including atheists, polytheists, Pagans etc. have full free and equal rights of conscience, as well as "all men are created equal" etc.

This theory, properly understood, meant the end of those biblical civil codes where the Church and the State were one.

It may be true that our original founding didn't fully secure the "rights of conscience" in a constitutional sense (the First Amendment, and much of the Constitution didn't even apply to the states). But neither did it secure full rights for blacks! Slavery, something antithetical to liberal democratic theory, was preserved by the original Constitution.

But just as the liberal democratic theory spelled the eventually end of slavery, it also mandated full disestablishment of all state established Churches (the last of which took place in 1833 and w/o the need for a civil war) and some type of meaningful separation of Church and State as well. See Jefferson's VA Statute on Religious Freedom and Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance, for two natural rights documents on how any government should and must treat religion.
12.13.2005 2:13pm
Smithy (mail):
He rejects "Separation of Church and State" as a founding metaphor.

Maybe that's because the phrase appears nowhere in the constitution. The founding fathers never meant for a band of extremists to, in effect, outlaw the celebration of religious holidays. We're letting them take away our heritage. That's why people of faith need to get behind legislation to protect Christmas from the ACLU.
12.13.2005 2:28pm
Carl B. Bridges (mail):
Jim, I think some of the commenters are on target when they say that theists would rather not be governed by atheists because we would doubt the atheist's moral foundations. I don't care if my plumber is an atheist, but I would prefer that the people who pass laws I have to obey have a moral grounding similar to mine.

Maybe "hostility" and "bias" are the wrong way to frame the issue. Most of us crazy fundies don't hate atheists (or gays or Muslims, etc.) but we might want to discriminate (in the best sense) as to who governs us.
12.13.2005 2:36pm
Humble Law Student:
Wow, you atheists really are a minority. Latest poll says that 94% of Americans believe there is a God. Only 1% are certain there is no God.



You must feel lonely.
12.13.2005 3:01pm
Humble Law Student:
Here is the link

12.13.2005 3:04pm
Humble Law Student:
Sorry, the link isn't working. You can get the link from drudge. The story is from editorandpublisher.com
12.13.2005 3:05pm
Preferred Customer:

"But businesses always used to reference Christmas, and seemed to be doing fine."


Attitudes, demographics, and markets evolve. If you told me that, as a business owner, dropping "Christmas" and adding "Holiday" would increase my sales 1 percent, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Some businesses wouldn't (and, notably, some businesses don't.)


"They also reference Easter (for now, anyway) and seem to have no problem making money off of that. It just seems like there's a very oppresive atmosphere occurring,"

What leads you to think that it's oppressive? The evidence so far identified is that businesses are acknowledging Christmas less--I'm not sure that's empirically true, but I'll grant it arguendo. Where is the evidence that this trend is motivated by "intimidation" of any kind?


"...and I think that if a business or government office wants to use the word "Christmas", or include a nativity scene in their decorations, they should be able to do so without fear of reprisal."


Agreed 100 percent, and I have no basis for thinking that, under our current legal system, there would be any reprisal for such an action. If a business owner has an irrational fear based on an incomplete understanding of the law, I can't really help them.
12.13.2005 3:06pm
Medis:
I apologize if this is redundant with posts in the other threads (which I have not had time to read).

Anyway, one of the problems in this discussion is that "atheism" (or "agnosticism") isn't actually the same kind of thing as a religion. It really isn't even a proper "-ism" in the sense of an organized system of beliefs. Rather, it is just defined by the lack of certain kinds of belief. So, saying that someone is an atheist or agnostic doesn't really tell you anything about what the person DOES believe--it just tells you something about what they do NOT believe. In other words, it would be like using the term "non-Christians", which would not be a terribly informative label for, among others, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or so on.

That said, I have no doubt that even "non-Christians" would still outpoll atheists in the United States. Still, my guess is that the views of many "atheists" would poll better if their actual beliefs were the subject of the question, and not just their lack of a certain kind of belief. And I also think part of the reason why atheists are viewed so harshly is that in the absence of a positive statement of beliefs, people fill in the gap with all sorts of stereotypes (eg, that atheists are hostile to religion, or morality, or democracy, or free-market capitalism, and so on).
12.13.2005 3:12pm
Adam K:

You must feel lonely.


The people who don't play with an imaginary friend are the lonely ones? Huh.
12.13.2005 3:16pm
DEGOP (mail):

But businesses always used to reference Christmas, and seemed to be doing fine. They also reference Easter (for now, anyway) and seem to have no problem making money off of that. It just seems like there's a very oppresive atmosphere occurring, and I think that if a business or government office wants to use the word "Christmas", or include a nativity scene in their decorations, they should be able to do so without fear of reprisal. Something like a Christmas Protection Act would at least remove that fear. Nobody's saying that they couldn't also put up menorahs or any other seasonal decorations, but they shouldn't be intimidated out of using Christmas-specific greetings and decorations.


Amen. I hadn't thought about Easter, but doesn't Thanksgiving have its origins in giving thanks to God? What's next, are businesses going to be pressured to celebrate the spring equinox instead of Easter? Is the ACLU going to pressure us to celebrate Ramadan instead of Thanksgiving? Sure, it sounds like hyperbole now, but imagine how people 30 years ago would have laughed if you'd told them that in 2005 celebrating Christmas would be frowned upon by so many liberals and secular humanists.

I'm not saying that Christianity itself is under attack yet, but this is the sort of thing that has to be nipped in the bud. A bill that would preserve the rights of Christians to publicly affirm the most important holiday of our faith wouldn't infringe on the rights of anyone else, and it would send a message to the intolerant that in American democracy, the majority rules. Last time I checked, the overwhelming majority of America was Christian.
12.13.2005 3:20pm
Smithy (mail):
I think the Christmas protection act will be a great move politically for the Republicans. Do the Democrats want to be known as the grinches who stole Christmas? That's what they'll be if they oppose the Christmas protection act. But if they support it, they'll be pilloried by their ACLU base. It puts people like Hillary. who needs the support of the moonbats to get the Democratic nomination, in a no-win situation.
12.13.2005 3:26pm
Colin:
"Sure, it sounds like hyperbole now, but imagine how people 30 years ago would have laughed if you'd told them that in 2005 celebrating Christmas would be frowned upon by so many liberals and secular humanists."

I laugh at people saying that today. For all the hysteria on the right about "liberals and secular humanists" crusading to exterminate Christmas, or even disparaging it, I've yet to see anyone on the left actually living up to that bogeyman image. I am amazed by the enormous amount of outrage among the oh-so-victimized Christian majority over what is, from what I can tell, an entirely artificial and baseless controversy. No one is persecuting Christians in this country, and no one is trying to steal Christmas.
12.13.2005 3:28pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

Sure, it sounds like hyperbole now, but imagine how people 30 years ago would have laughed if you'd told them that in 2005 celebrating Christmas would be frowned upon by so many liberals and secular humanists.


Very few liberals and secular humanists "frown upon" celebrating Christmas. Most of them, I would imagine celebrate Christmas themselves.

They frown upon government institutions endorsing one religious holiday to the exclusion of others, AND if dealing with the private sector, for instance, a privately owned department store, a lack of inclusiveness -- saying "Merry Christmas" but not likewise references to Hannuka, Ramadan, Festivus, or whatever. Simply stating "Happy Holidays" seems to be more polite, given that you don't know whether any particular customer does in fact celebrate Christmas. But ultimately, if it's the private sector, it's the choice of the business.

Personally, I am an not a very religious person and I celebrate Christmas and I can feel comfortable doing so precisely because Christmas has equal secular and Pagan elements to it.
12.13.2005 3:34pm
Smithy (mail):
No one is persecuting Christians in this country, and no one is trying to steal Christmas.

Banning Christmas carols in schools is stealing Christmas. Banning Christmas displays at department stores is stealing Christmas. Banning use of the phrase "Merry Christmas" is stealing Christmas. The extreme left is trying to steal Christmas. And it's up to us to stop them.

As a Christian, I feel increasingly duped by the Republicans in Washington. They count on our votes, but when it comes to the issues that matter to us, they seem to always be caving into the left. If I don't see a bill protecting Christmas from the ACLU by January 1, they can forget about my support in '06 and '08.
12.13.2005 3:35pm
Adam K:

but imagine how people 30 years ago would have laughed if you'd told them that in 2005 celebrating Christmas would be frowned upon by so many liberals and secular humanists.


They'd still laugh at that now. No one is frowning upon celebrating Christmas. Celebrate away. Go to church, pray, listen to music, put up your tree, decorate your house - and of course, above all, spend thousands of dollars on tawdry gifts, because that's what Jesus would want. What people are "frowning upon" is the government sponsoring what they - and most people - see as a religious holiday. How would you feel if the White House started erecting Saturnalian symbols instead of a Christmas Tree? A 100-foot-tall menorah?

The really funny thing is that so many avowed conservatives are all for government's role. I guess people only belive in small government when that doesn't conflict with active endorsement and validation of their arbitrary beliefs.
12.13.2005 3:40pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

First of all, I don't believe any school has ever been legally prevented from singing Christmas carols. If those teachers did that, they were being silly, or trying to make a political point. That is no one's fault but their own.
The ACLU has accomplished its ends, however, by creating a "chilling effect" that causes teachers and principals to operate as though that was the case. When my daughter was in fourth grade, the class was singing holiday songs. When the teacher asked what song they might want to sing next, my daughter suggested "Silent Night." The teacher's response was, "We can't sing that. That would be illegal."

As part of the school's effort to promote reading, students were asked to bring in a book to read (silently) for a half hour of each day. A friend's son brought in a book that so horrified the teacher that he was told that he could not bring it into the classroom in the future. What was this disgusting book? The Bible.

Now, I admit, this was a liberal controlled county of California. Things may be different where you live. But the ACLU has certainly accomplished their goals of intimidation and fear.
12.13.2005 3:54pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Very few liberals and secular humanists "frown upon" celebrating Christmas. Most of them, I would imagine celebrate Christmas themselves.
Hmmm. I notice that many liberals and secular humanists that I know have Winter Solstice parties in late December--you know, when the knuckle-dragging majority tend to have Christmas parties.
12.13.2005 3:59pm
Smithy (mail):
But the ACLU has certainly accomplished their goals of intimidation and fear.

Let's hope this is last Christmas that the ACLU ruins.
12.13.2005 4:04pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I am amazed by the enormous amount of outrage among the oh-so-victimized Christian majority over what is, from what I can tell, an entirely artificial and baseless controversy. No one is persecuting Christians in this country, and no one is trying to steal Christmas.
Hmmm. A friend worked for a public school district in a liberal-controlled county in California. She would overhear hiring decisions being made--and sometimes there would be a discussion of whether a teacher might be a fundamentalist--with the clear implication that this was a strike against her. (My friend, for obvious reasons, kept a very low profile about her religious beliefs at work.)

A friend of my wife worked as a teacher in the same district, and another teacher who didn't know her very well started off the school year with the question, "Ya got any fundamentals this year?" This teacher meant "fundamentalists" but since ignorance isn't a bar to teaching school...

One of my professors when I was in school let slip at a departmental event of some sort that she had started to attend church. Now, she was a very liberal feminist, and I would guess that she was probably attending a very liberal church. But she confided in me that there was a bit of razzing from other faculty members about attending church. Not really persecution, I guess, but it says a lot about the fierce contempt that is so common in the academy.
12.13.2005 4:09pm
Colin:
"Banning Christmas carols in schools is stealing Christmas. Banning Christmas displays at department stores is stealing Christmas. Banning use of the phrase "Merry Christmas" is stealing Christmas."

Ah yes, the infamous "X Out Xmas" Act of 2001. Perhaps XOXA went too far; I can see how a mandatory minimum 20-month prison term for saying "Merry Christmas" might offend people. But perhaps I misremember. Could you provide some sort of citation to a law, or a case, or anything that would "ban" the use of the phrase "Merry Christmas"?

"But the ACLU has certainly accomplished their goals of intimidation and fear."

This is the sort of mouth-frothing hyperbole that makes Christians' claims of persecution so baffling. It's not hard to look up the ACLU's record; it spends an enormous amount of time, energy, and money defending religious freedoms and has, to my knowledge, neither attempted to nor succeeded in convincing public schools that Bibles are verboten. Wacky and ridiculous claims of persecution by shadowy cabals sap the strength of your serious arguments.
12.13.2005 4:11pm
Marcus1:
Smithy,

Where were Christmas carols banned? Why don't you just make some more stuff up?
12.13.2005 4:16pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

"But the ACLU has certainly accomplished their goals of intimidation and fear."

This is the sort of mouth-frothing hyperbole that makes Christians' claims of persecution so baffling. It's not hard to look up the ACLU's record; it spends an enormous amount of time, energy, and money defending religious freedoms and has, to my knowledge, neither attempted to nor succeeded in convincing public schools that Bibles are verboten. Wacky and ridiculous claims of persecution by shadowy cabals sap the strength of your serious arguments.
I specifically wrote that it was not that the ACLU has filed suits, but that it has created a perception (and I'm sure intentionally) that this would be unlawful. Are you going to respond to my statement, or just engage in strawman attacks?
12.13.2005 4:18pm
Smithy (mail):
Christmas carols are now banned in most public schools. The children are made to sing "non-demoniational" songs instead -- "Oh Sharing Tree" instead of "Oh Christmas Tree" and so on. It's a fact.
12.13.2005 4:18pm
Marcus1:
>Let's hope this is last Christmas that the ACLU ruins.<

Ok, maybe Smithy is joking. Unfortunately it's impossible to tell.
12.13.2005 4:19pm
Nony Mouse:
Adam,
If the family in residence at the White House was Jewish, I wouldn't have a problem with an oversized Menorah or Dreidel, having a giant Gelt designed for a centerpiece, and having the first family handing out chocolate coins. I'd probably get twitchy if it was a Roman Catholic family doing that, though.
12.13.2005 4:21pm
Adam K:

Christmas carols are now banned in most public schools.


Citations, please.
12.13.2005 4:23pm
Smithy (mail):
I'm not joking Marcus. There used to be carolers in my neighborhood. Not anymore. People are afraid to do that kind of thing now.
12.13.2005 4:23pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I'm not joking Marcus. There used to be carolers in my neighborhood. Not anymore. People are afraid to do that kind of thing now.
I think that has a bit more to do with changing fashions. No one is afraid to carol; that's sort of a Victorian thing that held on for a couple of generations, and then gave way. Into the 19th century, the custom in many parts of the U.S. on Christmas night was to go from house to house shooting guns into the air, until the residents invited you in for food and drink. (This is originally a German tradition.)
12.13.2005 4:31pm
Adam K:

There used to be carolers in my neighborhood. Not anymore. People are afraid to do that kind of thing now.


No offense to you personally, but those must be some pretty woefully misinformed or ignorant people if they think they can get in trouble for caroling.
12.13.2005 4:31pm
Smithy (mail):
You may be right Clayton. Perhaps I'm being paranoid on that score.

Still, I think Congress has to do something to preserve Christmas traditions. It makes me sad that there is no Christmas dislays in the parks anymore and that children don't sing Christmas carols in school.
12.13.2005 4:33pm
Mary C. (mail):
I agree with Clayton E. Cramer about the "chilling effect". My kids' school is doing the whole "holiday" thing, and there's no mention of Christmas. I asked the principal why, and he said that he just didn't want to open up a can of worms. Since when is the celebration of Jesus' birth a "can of worms"? People are genuinely reluctant to mention Christmas or Jesus because they're scared that someone will get offended and make a big stink! What's offensive about Jesus? If things keep going like this, then our grandkids won't even know what Christmas IS, because it will have slowly been removed from all public discourse. I know that people might think we're being over-the-top about this, but it's a lot easier to nip these things in the bud, than it is to reverse course once it's so far gone...
12.13.2005 4:33pm
Colin:
Clayton, I don't see a strawman here. You say that the ACLU has created a culture of fear, which I argue is "mouth-frothing hyperbole." In support of that argument, I point out that the ACLU is a vigorous defender of religious freedom. Anyone afraid that the ACLU will shut them down for celebrating Christmas is paying too much attention to the persecution complex, and not enough attention to the facts. Maybe you could explain how the ACLU creates this cloud of terror, since "it was not that the ACLU has filed suits"?
12.13.2005 4:35pm
Nony Mouse:
(To actually post on what this originally was about)

There are two interpretations to this poll:

1) The majority of people don't know many proclaimed Atheists..
a) and don't trust a view point they don't understand
b) and don't trust a group they don't think they know
c) and don't like a group whose most vocal members like to call their belief system derisive names
or d) and don't see a large contribution to scociety by Atheists (Newdow not withstanding)

2) The majority of people think that the only reason people act morally is a higher power... either as an inspiration, a guide or an enforcer.
(And how many people do you see hit the brakes on the highway when they see a cop car? Even if they're not speeding, but because they might habitually and have to double-check their speed?)

It seems like most people find the second interpretation is getting the most airtime here, and not much of the first. Any thoughts?
12.13.2005 4:37pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Still, I think Congress has to do something to preserve Christmas traditions. It makes me sad that there is no Christmas dislays in the parks anymore and that children don't sing Christmas carols in school.
What needs to happen is for the Supreme Court to actually look at the historical evidence, and rule accordingly. The establishment clause was not intended to prohibit any level of government from promoting religion, and certainly not to require neutrality between religion and irreligion. You can see that from the actions that Congress took throughout the early Republic promoting first Protestantism (although not any particular denomination or church), and then generally Christianity.
12.13.2005 4:40pm
Smithy (mail):
Nony, we haven't lost sight of what the post was about, in the sense that we are discussing an issue that affects the way that the Christian majority views atheists.
12.13.2005 4:40pm
Marcus1:
Smithy,

If you are allowing your Christmas to be ruined by ACLU boogeymen, I'm afraid you have bigger problems.

What on earth is it you think carolers in your neighborhood are afraid of? Murderous ACLU thugs? Is there anything you won't say?

You sound like somebody who simply has a disregard for the truth. Where did you hear that most schools have banned Christmas carols? How do you know this is a "fact"? I seem to remember "honesty" being a Christian virtue, but sometimes I wonder.
12.13.2005 4:41pm
Colin:
"If things keep going like this, then our grandkids won't even know what Christmas IS, because it will have slowly been removed from all public discourse."

This is the sort of wild hyperbole that is so confusing to the rest of us. How could you possibly believe that your grandchildren won't know what Christmas is? Are you really afraid that the evil atheists will prevent you from telling them? Or do you believe that you require the assistance of government to educate them as to your religious beliefs and cultural practices?

If people are afraid of liberal stormtroopers rubbing out Christmas in homes across the country, it's not because it's actually happening. I haven't seen anyone here, or anywhere else, cite a factual instance of the prohibition of private celebrations. And if there was such an instance, I think it's pretty clear from the record of groups like the ACLU that liberals would be as outraged as conservatives.

Rather, I think the fear is generated by this strange persecution complex; for some reason, some Christians seem to be very eager to believe that they're being persecuted, and tell each other scary stories and anecdotes to reinforce that perception.
12.13.2005 4:42pm
Adam K:
The real solution to this isn't to b*tch about Christians shoving their religion down people's throats, or about athesits/secularists attacking Christians/Christmas/religion, or suing, or countersuing, or anything of the sort. To get to the solution, you look to the source of the problem: government's obtrusive involvement in so many facets of people's lives. It's simply gotten out of hand, and it needs to be scaled back. And the more areas it's pulled away from, the more voids can be filled by private parties, who can do whatever the hell they want. Get governments out of the education business, for example, and there's no longer a state actor involved in the Christmas pageant at your child's school.
12.13.2005 4:46pm
Aaron:
CEC:
Do they prevent you from having a Christmas party? Do they force you to go their Solstice party?

I see this issue as a speech issue--we are not trying to exclude your expression of Christmas--we simply don't want it to be the only message out there.

The Editors:
Earlier you claimed that "black skin isn't culture; gender isn't culture." You don't really believe that--is was just a rhetorical soundbite. Race, creed, gender are all HUGE contributing factors into creating American culture.
Remember that the freedom to believe includes the freedom not to believe.
12.13.2005 4:51pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

You say that the ACLU has created a culture of fear, which I argue is "mouth-frothing hyperbole." In support of that argument, I point out that the ACLU is a vigorous defender of religious freedom. Anyone afraid that the ACLU will shut them down for celebrating Christmas is paying too much attention to the persecution complex, and not enough attention to the facts. Maybe you could explain how the ACLU creates this cloud of terror, since "it was not that the ACLU has filed suits"?
It is not that the ACLU has filed suits to prohibit a student from bringing a Bible to school, or (to my knowledge) to prohibit the singing of "Silent Night." It is that the suits prohibiting the display of the Ten Commandments in a public park, requiring the County of Los Angeles to remove an historic cross from the county seal, prohibiting the presence of a creche on public property, all have the effect of making bureaucrats everywhere uncertain of what is legal, and what is not.

It is abundantly clear that if a public school started the school day with mandatory prayer that they would be breaking the law, as the Supreme Court has ruled. (I would make the argument that this violates the freedom of religion clause, not the establishment clause.)

But what if a public school has a Christmas play (these used to be quite common, even when I was growing up in California in the 1960s) that tells the story of Christmas? I don't know that the ACLU has ever filed suit to prevent this, but I can see how with their fanatic zeal to remove all expressions of Christianity from public institutions that they might do so--and school administrators know also that they might be the case. There is at least a plausible question as to whether such a play constitutes a violation of the rights of non-Christians whose kids are at the school--and that's all that is required for the ACLU to achieve its goal.

What about my daughter asking if they could sing "Silent Night"? It would have been one explicitly Christian song among a number of secular Christmas songs. I can't imagine any basis for the ACLU to win such a suit--but who wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars of school district money fighting such a suit? The ACLU (like a lot of lawyers) achieve their ends by the knowledge that they sue at the drop of a hat, and even when they are clearly in the wrong, the courts go along with them.

My favorite example of this sort of nonsense being accepted by the courts is where the plaintiff claimed that seeing a Ten Commandments monument in a public park caused her "physical pain." Instead of accepting this claim, the judge should have reminded the plaintiff that there are penalties for perjury. If she genuinely felt physical pain from seeing this (which could be determined, I suppose, by measuring pulse), then it was time to have her see a psychiatrist. There are some things that offend me, and I would not want to see them. But they don't cause me physical pain.
12.13.2005 4:52pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

CEC:
Do they prevent you from having a Christmas party? Do they force you to go their Solstice party?
Nor did I claim otherwise. I was responding to the specific claim that liberals and secular humanists celebrate Christmas too. I'm sure that some do. But I know for a fact that many celebrate "Winter Solstice." This was very big where I used to live, because New Agers, neo-pagans, and Wiccans were a big part of the community. (Too many millionaires seems to cause this.)

I see this issue as a speech issue--we are not trying to exclude your expression of Christmas--we simply don't want it to be the only message out there.
You have control of most of the major news organizations. Why are you worried about Christmas being the only message?
12.13.2005 4:56pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Colin writes:


"If things keep going like this, then our grandkids won't even know what Christmas IS, because it will have slowly been removed from all public discourse."

This is the sort of wild hyperbole that is so confusing to the rest of us. How could you possibly believe that your grandchildren won't know what Christmas is? Are you really afraid that the evil atheists will prevent you from telling them?
Atheists have a pretty poor history on this matter, you know. The Soviet Union prohibited religious instruction to minors, for example. You might also find Nien Cheng's Life and Death in Shanghai instructive as well, as it discusses the lengths to which the Red Guards sought to suppress all private religious belief--while using phrasing and idioms that in Chinese were traditionally religious to refer to Mao Zedong. I would have to say that someone who thinks the presence of a cross on a mission (an historic reference to the found of Los Angeles) as part of the seal of the County of Los Angeles is a violation of the establishment clause is certainly capable of full Soviet-style oppression.

And yes, it does sound a little bizarre to think that the left would ever use its control over the legal system in such crude ways--but I don't think most people under 30 have a clue at how dramatically the ACLU and sister liberal organizations have changed this society for the worse in two generations.
12.13.2005 5:07pm
Colin:
So it's not that the ACLU (or liberals in general via their nefarious proxy) are actually attacking Christmas... it's that we object to using the machinery of government to promote Christianity in general, and depriving Christianity of the force of government is what threatens Christmas?

If some Christians equate losing a privileged place in the halls of government to an all-out attack on their religion, then the fault is not with those non-Christians (or moderate Christians, or fundamentalist Christians who advocate separating church and state) who support a religiously neutral government. I would argue that the responsibility for this putative culture of fear lies rather with those people most intent on spreading frightful tales of some ruthless yet undetectable assault on Christmas.

Separation of church and state does not deprive anyone of the holiday. Whatever your take on originalism, Christians in general and Christmas in particular don't need state support to thrive.
12.13.2005 5:11pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It seems like most people find the second interpretation is getting the most airtime here, and not much of the first. Any thoughts?
I think anyone that goes to college is going to know plenty of atheists while they are there (and not many afterwards). First, you have the faculty. Second, you have the students who are having so much fun being away from Mommy and Daddy that they have to demonstrate it, with drunken orgies, stupid pranks, or, if they have intellectual pretensions, the sort of missionary atheism that makes atheism look bad to others.
12.13.2005 5:12pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

So it's not that the ACLU (or liberals in general via their nefarious proxy) are actually attacking Christmas... it's that we object to using the machinery of government to promote Christianity in general, and depriving Christianity of the force of government is what threatens Christmas?
The biggest threat to Christmas is definitely materialism. The problem is that the ACLU, by promoting their ahistoric "separation of church and state," insist that there is nothing wrong with putting a non-religious display in a public place, but there is something wrong with putting a Chrstian display in a public place. (And yes, the ACLU has argued that a menorah is not a religious symbol. I suppose next that they will decide Judaism isn't a religion.)

What does it say to impressionable young people (you know, the ones that the ACLU is trying to protect from mandatory prayer in public schools) when they see some religious symbols, like menorahs and crescents, appearing in public places, while others are disfavored, because they are symbols of a religion that the ACLU has a special hatred for?
12.13.2005 5:18pm
Colin:
"Atheists have a pretty poor history on this matter, you know. The Soviet Union prohibited religious instruction to minors, for example . . . I would have to say that someone who thinks the presence of a cross on a mission (an historic reference to the found of Los Angeles) as part of the seal of the County of Los Angeles is a violation of the establishment clause is certainly capable of full Soviet-style oppression."

I'm sorry, I think I must be misreading you. Are you suggesting that liberals are on the path to gulags, secret trials, and mass executions? What? I do hate to beat a phrase to death, but this is full-on, frothing at the mouth hysteria. It's no different than declaring that the religious right is about to pull out the hot pliers and start a genuine Inquisition to root out heresy. Christianity doesn't cause people to torture nonbelievers to death, and atheists (and religious liberals) aren't mass-murdering monsters. Once again, if anything is causing a culture of fear among Christians in this country, it's excessive and baseless rhetoric from within.
12.13.2005 5:21pm
Marcus1:
Cramer,

I think you're trying to blame the ACLU for a general liberalization in our culture.

Really, though, if someone is so interested in overtly religious activities, can't they do them in their church?

I would agree that there are probably less birth-of-Jesus plays in public schools than there used to be. But why does that really make people so angry? Why do they feel they are entitled to have their religious culture promoted in school or by the government in general? Is religion really incapable of sustaining itself without government support?

I think if people are concerned about the future of their religion, then it is up to them to promote it however they feel is appropriate. Insisting that the government reflect the religious views of the majority, however, seems both unconstitutional and generally inconsiderate of religious minorities.

Conservatives just insist on continuingly blurring the line between the right to free religious exercise and the right to government endorsement of their religious culture.
12.13.2005 5:25pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Aaron,

Earlier you claimed that "black skin isn't culture; gender isn't culture." You don't really believe that--is was just a rhetorical soundbite.


Of course I believe it, because its quite obviously true.
12.13.2005 5:29pm
CJColucci (mail):
The capacity of people on this thread to make s**t up is astounding. I live in probably the least Christian major city in America and it is awash with Christmas -- yes, actual, explicit Christmas -- celebration and display. Contrary to stereotype, we're a polite bunch, we New Yorkers, and we know that the city is full of people who celebrate other holidays (let's cut to the chase -- Jews), so it's just good manners to acknowledge that in venues that cater to all sorts of folks. Hence, following the lead of the White House, a Happy Holiday to one and all -- at least those of who who inhabit the planet Earth.
12.13.2005 5:33pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I'm sorry, I think I must be misreading you. Are you suggesting that liberals are on the path to gulags, secret trials, and mass executions? What? I do hate to beat a phrase to death, but this is full-on, frothing at the mouth hysteria.
You must have missed that fascinating article by ACLU founder Roger Baldwin that Professor Volokh posted a while back--the one where he excused the Soviet Union's violation of civil liberties because they already had socialism, and so didn't really have a need for these rights:
I believe in non-violent methods of struggle as most effective in the long run for building up successful working class power. Where they cannot be followed or where they are not even permitted by the ruling class, obviously only violent tactics remain. I champion civil liberty as the best of the non-violent means of building the power on which workers rule must be based. If I aid the reactionaries to get free speech now and then, if I go outside the class struggle to fight against censorship, it is only because those liberties help to create a more hospitable atmosphere for working class liberties. The class struggle is the central conflict of the world; all others are incidental.

Proletarian Liberty in Practice

When that power of the working class is once achieved, as it has been only in the Soviet Union, I am for maintaining it by any means whatever. Dictatorship is the obvious means in a world of enemies at home and abroad. I dislike it in principle as dangerous to its own objects. But the Soviet Union has already created liberties far greater than exist elsewhere in the world. They are liberties that most closely affect the lives of the people — power in the trade unions, in peasant organizations, in the cultural life of nationalities, freedom of women in public and private life, and a tremendous development of education for adults and children. . . .

I saw in the Soviet Union many opponents of the regime. I visited a dozen prisons — the political sections among them. I saw considerable of the work of the OGPU. I heard a good many stories of severity, even of brutality, and many of them from the victims. While I sympathized with personal distress I just could not bring myself to get excited over the suppression of opposition when I stacked it up against what I saw of fresh, vigorous expressions of free living by workers and peasants all over the land. And further, no champion of a socialist society could fail to see that some suppression was necessary to achieve it. It could not all be done by persuasion. . . .
Yeah, nothing to worry about, right?
12.13.2005 5:33pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It's no different than declaring that the religious right is about to pull out the hot pliers and start a genuine Inquisition to root out heresy.
What, exactly, do you think your fellow travelers are talking about when they refer to conservatives as "the American Taliban"? They draw this comparison all the time.
Christianity doesn't cause people to torture nonbelievers to death, and atheists (and religious liberals) aren't mass-murdering monsters.
All the worst excesses of the Inquisition for centuries don't add up to a number of single years of murders done by the atheists who ran the Soviet Union, Red China, and Khmer Rouge Cambodia. (I'm excluding Nazi Germany from the atheist genocidal hall of shame, even though Hitler seems to have been an atheist, because a lot of his leadership were various deranged forms of neo-pagans.)
12.13.2005 5:37pm
anonymous coward:
"Are you suggesting that liberals are on the path to gulags, secret trials, and mass executions?"

Shorter Clayton Cramer: Absofrickenlutely!
12.13.2005 5:39pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I think you're trying to blame the ACLU for a general liberalization in our culture.
Are you suggesting that without the lawsuits, the society would have turned liberal anyway? If so, Roe v. Wade (1973) did nothing. Ditto for Memoirs v. Massachusetts (1966). And Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Now, you may like the results (and I like the results of Griswold), but don't pretend that the society turned liberal and suddenly Congress and the state legislatures decided to change all the laws. There was some of that, no question, but much of it was imposed through the court system.


Really, though, if someone is so interested in overtly religious activities, can't they do them in their church?
"Really, though, if someone is so interested in overtly homosexual activities, can't they do them in their own closet?" Liberals don't believe this for a second.


I would agree that there are probably less birth-of-Jesus plays in public schools than there used to be. But why does that really make people so angry?
Because we resent having a tiny minority tell us what our institutions are allowed to do. Imagine what your reaction would be if 5% of the population suddenly insisted that every school day should start with a mandatory prayer led by the teacher. "Those are our schools, too" you would rightly proclaim.

Why do they feel they are entitled to have their religious culture promoted in school or by the government in general? Is religion really incapable of sustaining itself without government support?
Because we resent that the public schools actively promote your culture of liberalism, atheism, and homosexuality. (At least where I lived in California, they did.) Make the public schools neutral on politics and religion, and I suppose that we can meet in the middle. But I've never seen public schools that I have attended or sent my kids to achieve anything close to neutrality.

I think if people are concerned about the future of their religion, then it is up to them to promote it however they feel is appropriate. Insisting that the government reflect the religious views of the majority, however, seems both unconstitutional and generally inconsiderate of religious minorities.
"I think if people are concerned about the future of their sexual orientation, then it is up to them to promote it however they feel is appropriate. Insisting that the government reflect the sexual orientation views of the minority, however, seems both unconstitutional and generally inconsiderate of religious majorities."
12.13.2005 5:47pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Clayton Cramer - Nazi Germany wasn't really "athiest", but it was certainly not Christian. Nazi Germany actually seems to have been an pagan/occult/neo-Satanic state. There is ample documentation for this. A summary can be found in "Salvation Comes From the Jews", published by Ignatius Press (a Catholic publisher, written by a Jew who converted to Catholicism), which discusses the ideological foundations of Nazism.

I absolutely agree with you that Christianity is under a new persecution from the left. There is also pushback, so the fight is not entirely one-sided. But certainly in many parts of the country there is an intolerance of Christianity not seen since the Roman era.
12.13.2005 5:48pm
Belle Waring (mail):
I am an atheist who has spent much of her life in far-left enclaves such as Takoma Park, MD and Berkeley CA. I have never, once, even by my Wiccan friends, ever, been invited to a solstice party. I am...skeptical about Clayton Cramer's claims. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go bake the gingerbread figures for my homemade creche.
12.13.2005 5:49pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

"Are you suggesting that liberals are on the path to gulags, secret trials, and mass executions?"

Shorter Clayton Cramer: Absofrickenlutely!
Could you try to make a reasoned argument?

I am going to assume that most liberals aren't interested in these things. But one of the lessons of the twentieth century is that institutions once established for a good purpose, are easily misused for a bad purpose. The Weimar Republic's gun control laws and regulations of 1928 and 1931 were intended to disarm violent political factions such as the Communists and the Nazis. They gave sufficient discretion, however, that when the Nazis came to power as a result of the 1933 elections, the new masters of the state were able to use those laws and regulations to achieve Nazi ends. It wasn't until 1938 that the Nazis felt a need to make any changes.

Liberals keep insisting that the PATRIOT Act is a very dangerous set of powers. I actually agree, and this is why I have argued that to the extent these powers remain in place to deal with the very real problem of terrorism, they need to be temporary--requiring regular renewal, and thus regular Congressional debate. Yet now you insist that there's no reason to worry about governmental power run amok. Why?
12.13.2005 5:54pm
anonymous coward:
"I am going to assume that most liberals aren't interested in [gulags, secret trials, and mass executions]."

That's very generous of you, sir!
12.13.2005 5:57pm
Preferred Customer:
"I am going to assume that most liberals aren't interested in these things. But one of the lessons of the twentieth century is that institutions once established for a good purpose, are easily misused for a bad purpose. The Weimar Republic's gun control laws and regulations of 1928 and 1931 were intended to disarm violent political factions such as the Communists and the Nazis. They gave sufficient discretion, however, that when the Nazis came to power as a result of the 1933 elections, the new masters of the state were able to use those laws and regulations to achieve Nazi ends. It wasn't until 1938 that the Nazis felt a need to make any changes."

AHA!

A couple of people danced around it, but when the gulags came up I knew it was only a matter of time. Godwin's Law has (once again) proven to be the only real immutable truth in the Universe; I am afraid that this discussion must now end.
12.13.2005 6:00pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Preferred Customer,

It seems highly ridiculous to say that an argument is at an end, when the topic of conversation involves why the American Public does not trust athiest politicians, and as an example of such non-trust the degeneration of the Weimar republic is used as an example. No one has suggested, however, that athiests want to feed Christians to the lions again. Only that athiests wants Christians to shut up.
12.13.2005 6:04pm
Nony Mouse:

I think anyone that goes to college is going to know plenty of atheists while they are there (and not many afterwards). First, you have the faculty. Second, you have the students who are having so much fun being away from Mommy and Daddy that they have to demonstrate it, with drunken orgies, stupid pranks, or, if they have intellectual pretensions, the sort of missionary atheism that makes atheism look bad to others.

Cramer,
First, I haven't the foggiest notion if any of my profs were atheists (See point 1). It never even began to run into class; the closest was a psychology class that was talking about one part of the brain that identifies what is "me" and "not me".
Second, a good portion of the guys in the bars wouldn't look twice at a WWJD shirt. It took a good friend of mine five years to work up the courage to tell me, "I'm an agnostic." And then it was after I had spoken of hanging out with pagans of different stripes. It's typically the other sort of atheist/agnostic that identify themselves gratingly; rarely does it come up in a non-offensive manner. {EV's atheism is in the distinct minority, here.}

Belle,
Too bad you've never been to a Yule celebration. They can be quite nice, actually, even if you're not Wiccan (just like Christmas music can be lovely to an atheist).
12.13.2005 6:05pm
Marcus1:
Clayton,

Yes, the ACLU has helped liberalize our culture. I'm just saying at this point you can't really pin it on them any more than you would pin... oh, lets say the current rights of African Americans on today's Republican party (analogy to be interpreted narrowly).

If my analogy is weak, though, yours is ridiculous. Is someone advocating the performance of homosexual acts on official school time? I mean, really. Or did I say that religious displays should be limited to where people can't see them? I don't think I can entertain the analogy any further than that. My point was simply that if people want to promote religion, they should do it themselves, not have the government do it. I wasn't forcing anybody into any closets, figurative or otherwise. But once again, if you want something religious, you should sponsor it, not the government.

This is the concept that "Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion." Are you familiar with this? You seem to support the establishment of Christianity outright. Am I wrong?

I'm really not sure what this has to do with forcing gays into the closet.
12.13.2005 6:23pm
Smithy (mail):
You seem to support the establishment of Christianity outright.

That's not what he said. He (and I agree) just feel that we need to have some wawy of preserving Christmas traditions. The courts seem to side with the ACLU so we need federal law to allow Christmas to remain a vital part of our culture.
12.13.2005 6:25pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Marcus1,

The "concept" behind Congress passing no law respecting an establishment of religion was to protect the then-existing state-established Churches. If they had wanted to have a strict separation of church and state, the Founders would've done so. But they didn't. This is historical fact.

"You seem to support the establishment of Christianity outright."

You have no idea what establishment means. It means jail time for heresy, failure to go to church on Sunday, official persecution of unsponsored Christian sects or non-Christian religions, ministers and Priests as government employees, and the President being the Defender of the Faith.

Government recognition of Christianity with the lighting of a Christmas tree is not establishment. ALLOWING a child to sing "Silent Night" in school is not establishment.
12.13.2005 6:42pm
Marcus1:
Smithy,

Federal law establishing Christmas as an expressly Christian holiday to be thoroughly recognized above all other holidays? I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if it happened. You probably know at this point that "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance, "In God We Trust" as our National Motto, "In God We Trust" on our currency, all happened long after our founding fathers passed away.

You may say that you don't want to establish Christianity, but that is clearly your intent. I appreciate that you want to celebrate Christmas -- I enjoy Christmas too. I simply don't feel the government should go out of its way to explicitly make clear that Christianity is the national religion. America has a strong tradition of being a nation for all religions, not just that of the majority. In order to maintain that, however, the government cannot promote the majority religion, no matter how much fun they think it would be.
12.13.2005 6:44pm
Marcus1:
>Government recognition of Christianity with the lighting of a Christmas tree is not establishment. ALLOWING a child to sing "Silent Night" in school is not establishment.<

I agree, and so does everybody I've ever talked to.

As far as what establishment means, I'm not sure you're right about that. Some of the founders, at least, certainly did believe in the separation of church and state.

>You have no idea what establishment means. It means jail time for heresy, failure to go to church on Sunday, official persecution of unsponsored Christian sects or non-Christian religions, ministers and Priests as government employees, and the President being the Defender of the Faith.<

No, I do know what establishment means, and that's why I'm so strongly against it :)
12.13.2005 6:50pm
Sydney Carton (www):
"I agree, and so does everybody I've ever talked to."

Unfortunately, those in power have talked to different people. There is no doubt that the ACLU is at the forefront of a new religious persecution in this country, which they are clearly proud of. Frankly, I'm waiting for them to begin suing over "hostile work environments" because someone at a business says "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." For the record, I work in a BIGLAW firm in Manhattan and keep my religious preferences a complete and utter secret.

Certain of the founders argued for religious toleration acts, as in Virginia. But basically, the Establishment Clause was not a phrase that was meant to have the sweeping effect it has today. It essentially was a political insertion to protect the state-established Churches at the time existing in Massachusetts and other states.
12.13.2005 6:59pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Clayton Cramer - Nazi Germany wasn't really "athiest", but it was certainly not Christian. Nazi Germany actually seems to have been an pagan/occult/neo-Satanic state. There is ample documentation for this.
I didn't claim that Nazi Germany was atheist. I specifically distinguished Hitler's beliefs (probably atheist, although he doesn't seem to have left much to tell us about this) from those of the neo-pagan crazies at the top of the Party. Much of German society retained a formal Christianity, although much like in America, it wasn't something that interfered much with what most people did at work, play, or school. There are some powerful and notable exceptions, of course. See my review of Annedore Leber's Conscience in Revolt: Sixty-Four Stories of Resistance in Germany, 1933-45 (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1994).
12.13.2005 7:07pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I am an atheist who has spent much of her life in far-left enclaves such as Takoma Park, MD and Berkeley CA. I have never, once, even by my Wiccan friends, ever, been invited to a solstice party. I am...skeptical about Clayton Cramer's claims.
My wife and I have received such invitations not only in Sonoma County, but even here in Boise. Let me emphasize that the partythrowers were generally atheist/lapsed Mormon and eclectic New Agers, not Wiccans.
12.13.2005 7:09pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

This is the concept that "Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion." Are you familiar with this? You seem to support the establishment of Christianity outright. Am I wrong?
I am very familiar with this. But it "establishment of religion" doesn't mean what the ACLU says it means. I've collected a number of examples of how the Revolutionary and early Republic governments understood the relationship of religion and government, here. You may also be startled to read the New Jersey Constitution of 1776, which in one section prohibits an establishment of religion--and then only guarantees the right to hold public office to those "professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect. who shall demean themselves peaceably under the government...." Establishment of religion didn't mean what the ACLU wants it to mean.

And no, I do not support having an establishment of religion, as that was understood back then. I am not even supportive of the level of government support of religion that was common in the early Republic--but I do support interpreting Constitution accurately, not ACLU-style.


I'm really not sure what this has to do with forcing gays into the closet.
It is called an analogy. I was pointing out that the same argument that you were using could be applied to groups that liberals believe have not just a right to be loud and out, but that the rest of us should just shut and not complain about.
12.13.2005 7:18pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Certain of the founders argued for religious toleration acts, as in Virginia. But basically, the Establishment Clause was not a phrase that was meant to have the sweeping effect it has today. It essentially was a political insertion to protect the state-established Churches at the time existing in Massachusetts and other states.
I am not persuaded that this was intended to protect existing state establishments. It was intended to make sure that no single denomination would receive any special favors or status from the federal government. Many states had establishments of religion and the time, and even many that did not have an establishment of religion gave clear legal preference to Protestants (for example, North Carolina), or to Christians (Maryland), or to those who believed in one God, and a hereafter of rewards and punishments (Pennsylvania).
12.13.2005 7:20pm
Sydney Carton (www):
Clayton,

The Establishment Clause woyld protect state establishments to the extent that it would guarantee a federal established Church would not be created to trump their own. Perhaps it also had the double-effect of preventing Congress from favoring specific state establishments as well, or elevating one state established church into a federal one.
12.13.2005 7:24pm
Jim Smitty (mail):
Why would you think that the man who said this was likely an atheist?

"We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."

Yes, that was Hitler, the same man who wrote in Mein Kampf

"I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord's work."

He also included that in one his speeches near the beginning of WW2.

Where do you think he got his anti-semitism from? It was from the church he grew up in, which condemned the Jews in its liturgy until well after WW2.
12.13.2005 8:15pm
Mary C. (mail):

But certainly in many parts of the country there is an intolerance of Christianity not seen since the Roman era.

Exactly. I know that some people are saying that we Christians are being persecuted. I wouldn't go that far. But there is a definite disdain right now in our society for people who are Christians. If a public figure went on TV and made fun of Jews, or Muslims, the uproar would be deafening, and rightly so. Yet it's somehow acceptable to mock Christians. It's somehow acceptable for us to be told that our second-holiest day could offend people! There's still mention of Christmas around, as many people have pointed out. But why should we wait until Christmas has been publicly eroded to an irreparable point? Why can we not NOW stand up and say, "Your celebration does not offend me, so my celebration should not offend you."? Why is Christianity the only religion right now that is being muffled in case it is offensive to others? That's why we need some sort of legislative protection...if Christianity was acceptable and welcome 20 years ago, but is considered offensive to others today...where the heck are we going to be 20 years from now?
12.13.2005 8:22pm
JackaLopez (mail):
Smithy, there is work going on in the House of Representatives to polish up and move a bill aimed at Christmas Legacy Preservation. The proposed act would protect merchants against lawsuits aimed at challenging their Christmas greetings and displays.
12.13.2005 8:34pm
SLS 1L:
Claton:

I'm really not sure what this has to do with forcing gays into the closet.
It is called an analogy. I was pointing out that the same argument that you were using could be applied to groups that liberals believe have not just a right to be loud and out, but that the rest of us should just shut and not complain about.
Very few people, even hardcore atheists such as myself, would be in favor of stigmatizing Christian belief in anything remotely like the way homosexuality used to be stigmatized, or even the way it is today. Christians should be free to be open about and proud of their Christianity, and as far as I can tell still are. Compare wearing a cross necklace with wearing a pink triangle or rainbow flag necklace. People will barely notice the Christian symbol, and the gay symbol will get you strange looks and nasty comments.

I'm a fairly hardcore anti-establishment type, but even stripping the government of all ability to celebrate Christmas in any way (which I would oppose) wouldn't be comparable to the imposition of a social stigma for being Christian or celebrating Christmas.

There is one similarity between atheism and homosexuality, however: both are subject to a social double standard that says informing someone of your status is "flaunting" it. People don't get criticized for "flaunting" their Christianity by wearing a cross, but just telling people, in a relevant context, that I'm an atheist gets me accused of shoving it down people's throats.
12.13.2005 8:44pm
Marcus1:
I spent last Christmas in Sweden, which is widely considered one of the msot secular countries in the world. You may be reassured to hear that Christmas has not been stamped out there. In fact, although it is an extraordinarily PC country, Christmas is still celebrated far and wide. It's all over the place, just as it is here.

Christmas isn't going anywhere. If you think it is, then have an extra big Christmas party this year. Celebrate your little hearts out. Just don't try to turn it into a government thing, and don't pretend to be a victim when the government's recognition isn't as ostentatious as you would like.
12.13.2005 8:56pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

and then only guarantees the right to hold public office to those "professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect. who shall demean themselves peaceably under the government...." Establishment of religion didn't mean what the ACLU wants it to mean.


And contrast that with Article VI of the Federal Constitution. NJ's clause is a blatant violation of the unalienable natural religious rights of non-Protestants.

See Jefferson's VA Statute on Relgious Liberty and Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance, written by arguably the two most important framers. Also keep in mind that they were not arguing what was appropriate for VA only but how all governments, in the ideal, must treat religion.
12.13.2005 8:57pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):
Re: taalinukko:

My point was the distinction between two presumably moral people. The first is someone who sees moral rules as begin the result of some lawgiver on high who will punish you for your transgressions in the afterlife (unless you say you are sorry or purchase an indulgence). The second would have had to arrive at their moral code through some other means, a simple one is the golden rule. However, this later person would not have the benefit of redemption if they violated their morals which were freely adopted.

Yes, but why does an atheist need redemption? There's no reason why he must, after all.


This all gets at the questions of whether a coerced moral actor is truly acting in a moral manner. I know that I want my kids to do the right thing for its own sake, not because I will become angry with them. Add to this the promise of forgiveness for failing to adhere to that moral code, and the whole thing just strikes me as a bad basis for investing public trust in a person.

Perhaps. Or we could look at it in that oh-so-rational law and economics way (hah, kind of. Not really).

A man who acts in a moral fashion just to act moral is engaging in activity which is, presumeably, costly to him (in that he forgoes certain goods he is tempted by). What countervailing force acts on him to deter yielding to that temptation? What force draws him away from yielding? How have we incentivised his good behaviour?

Consider, on the other hand, the man whose dreams are haunted by hellfire and damnation. The incentive to behave well is clear: He thinks he's in for eternal suffering if he doesn't (well -- in the extreme. Possibly he believes in mere purgatory, or reincarnation as a lower beast, or perhaps he doesn't believe in any punishment at all. There's all kinds of flavours of religion).

Really, which is more like the system of government we've set up? We've not set up our government on the assumption that our leaders will be saints, untempted by the lure of power. We separated the powers because we thought they wouldn't be, right?

Now, clearly that's not enough, since high politicians can abuse their offices to sate their lusts anyhow. But between the man who has a clear incentive to behave and the man who behaves, but has no incentive to behave, I think it's not irrational to choose the man with the clear incentive. Even if (obviously) the clear incentive doesn't work all that well (hence the increasing emphasis on genuineness of religious belief -- even in this thread, haven't we seen claims that the Clintons' faith is just a sham? I.e. that they didn't really believe adultery could be a mortal sin).

Whether it is a true goodness that behaves under the threat of the burning lake, or just a coerced goodness is, perhaps, of interest to us, if we desire that our elected officials be paragons of true virtue. I suspect, though, that most of us will be happy if they just behave.
12.13.2005 8:58pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

The Establishment Clause woyld protect state establishments to the extent that it would guarantee a federal established Church would not be created to trump their own.


The passage of the 14th Amendment makes this moot. The last state established church was gone in 1833 well before the passage of the 14th. The right to be free from an officially Established Church is one of the "privileges or immunities" of the 14th Amendment.
12.13.2005 9:00pm
Marcus1:
SLS,

>There is one similarity between atheism and homosexuality, however: both are subject to a social double standard that says informing someone of your status is "flaunting" it. People don't get criticized for "flaunting" their Christianity by wearing a cross, but just telling people, in a relevant context, that I'm an atheist gets me accused of shoving it down people's throats.<

Good point. I virtually never raise the issue. I was thinking, also, I mean, it's pretty fair to say that 5-10% of the population are atheists. So that's around 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 people. So I wonder, those here who think that atheists are just a bunch of pushy jerks, is their experience really that between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 people they encounter end up starting long obtrusive arguments about religion?

I think the willingness of people to attribute the personalities of 1 or 2 atheists they meet in their lifetime to all atheists in general is one of the clearer signs of their underlying, unrestrained hostility.
12.13.2005 9:22pm
JackaLopez (mail):
Mary C, I think you are making a good point. It seems to me that Christians are being asked to bend over backward to accomodate and tolerate. Yet I don't see people in other religions being asked to do the same. I am not "hostile" to atheists or any group. But I am not happy with being characterized as intolerant. In fact, it's just unfair. I don't start "arguments about religion" but I am not going to back down from my faith either.
12.13.2005 10:37pm
Sydney Carton (www):
"The passage of the 14th Amendment makes this moot."

Oh really? Where, in the history of the ratification process of the 14th Amendment, did the Establishment Clause come up at all? I'll save you time on your research: you won't find squat.

"The right to be free from an officially Established Church is one of the "privileges or immunities" of the 14th Amendment."

Says you. I find Slaughterhouse entirely convincing, which is probably why in 100+ years it hasn't been touched. What other "privileges" can you find in there? A right to a 401k? A right to get weekends off? A right to a minimum wage? A right to internet access? Gay Marriage?

Want to know why no one trusts athiest politicians? Because the American people don't share their values, moral, constitutional, or otherwise. PERIOD.
12.14.2005 1:31am
SLS 1L:
JackaLopez:
It seems to me that Christians are being asked to bend over backward to accomodate and tolerate. Yet I don't see people in other religions being asked to do the same.
What exactly constitutes the "bending over backward" that Christians are asked to do and others aren't?
12.14.2005 2:29am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

Oh really? Where, in the history of the ratification process of the 14th Amendment, did the Establishment Clause come up at all? I'll save you time on your research: you won't find squat.


Uh. Want to make a bet on that?
12.14.2005 8:27am
Smithy (mail):
What exactly constitutes the "bending over backward" that Christians are asked to do and others aren't?

Not being allowed to have Christmas displays, not being allowed to sing Christmas carols. That's bending over backwards, in my book, especially since until recently we hardly complained at all.

When the Christmas Protection Act becomes law, we won't have to bend over backwards anymore and finally Christians will be allowed, again, to celebrate Christmas the way it was meant to be celebrated.
12.14.2005 9:22am
Marcus1:
Sydney Carton,

>Want to know why no one trusts athiest politicians? Because the American people don't share their values, moral, constitutional, or otherwise. PERIOD.<

So you think Lindgren (And is EV an atheist too?) is unfit for public office because of his atheism?

>I find Slaughterhouse entirely convincing, which is probably why in 100+ years it hasn't been touched.<

So what, you don't think privileges and immunities means anything at all? I'd say maybe if the government was giving out 401k's to everybody else, then it would have to give them to gays too. Just a thought. Your assessment that atheist constitutional interpretations are out of the mainstream, though, seems a bit off. Most Americans don't want to overturn Roe v. Wade. They don't want to get rid of the privacy penumbra. They may not care much about the separation of church and state, but then, it wasn't atheists who created it.

I just saw a Gallup poll this morning which reported that 22% of Americans believe that the Rapture is definitly coming in their life times (God coming down and taking his people up to heaven). Another 22% think it's likely. So 44% of Americans think it's likely or certain that God is going to descend from the sky in their lifetimes and take his people up to heaven. It's no wonder most of those people aren't going to like atheists. The idea that this is based on the actual thoughts or behaviors of atheists, though, seems quite farfetched, since most of those people have probably never talked to one.
12.14.2005 9:33am
DEGOP (mail):

Very few liberals and secular humanists "frown upon" celebrating Christmas. Most of them, I would imagine celebrate Christmas themselves.

They frown upon government institutions endorsing one religious holiday to the exclusion of others, AND if dealing with the private sector, for instance, a privately owned department store, a lack of inclusiveness -- saying "Merry Christmas" but not likewise references to Hannuka, Ramadan, Festivus, or whatever. Simply stating "Happy Holidays" seems to be more polite, given that you don't know whether any particular customer does in fact celebrate Christmas. But ultimately, if it's the private sector, it's the choice of the business.

Personally, I am an not a very religious person and I celebrate Christmas and I can feel comfortable doing so precisely because Christmas has equal secular and Pagan elements to it.


Sorry it took me so long to reply to your post, Jon Rowe.

If most secularists don't frown upon celebrating Christmas, why did so many of the residents of this "tolerant" liberal college town I reside in turn us away last year when we were caroling? One man even threatened to call the police if we didn't get off his property. To be fair, I'm sure some of them were Muslim or whatever, but I still think they could be a little bit more respectful of the majority faith of the country they've come to live in. I think we should be allowed to maintain our culture and our identity as God-fearing American Christians without tip-toeing around the beliefs of every single person in town who happens to disagree with us. Is that asking too much? America is ruled by majorities, not minorities. If minority rule was all that mattered, Kerry would be President right now, and Hollywood would be enacting legislation.

As far as the private sector goes, they're of course free to choose whatever store policies they want to choose if they think it will improve their business opportunities. I think that as Christians, it is our duty to boycott stores that exclude us in favor of secularists and other religious minorities. And I don't think we should be ashamed to let them know why we're boycotting them. If the minority religions don't like it when the stores say "Merry Christmas," let them boycott. That's democracy. I think stores will side with the majority when they're forced to choose, though.

Personally, I celebrate Christmas because it's the birthday of our Messiah, not because His birthday is coincidentally shared by some kooky nonsense ritual dreamed up by a bunch of drunken Celts who ate too many of the weirdo berries.

This is a good discussion. I like a lot of what people are saying on this thread, particularly Clayton. And I really like the idea of a Christmas Protection Act.
12.14.2005 9:56am
Smithy (mail):
So 44% of Americans think it's likely or certain that God is going to descend from the sky in their lifetimes and take his people up to heaven.

What makes you so sure they're wrong. Seems a big arrogant of you, frankly.
12.14.2005 10:14am
SLS 1L:
What exactly constitutes the "bending over backward" that Christians are asked to do and others aren't?

Not being allowed to have Christmas displays, not being allowed to sing Christmas carols. That's bending over backwards, in my book, especially since until recently we hardly complained at all.
How are Christians being treated differently from anyone else? It's not as though small towns are putting out taxpayer-financed menorahs with nothing else surrounding them. Schools that are afraid to sing Christmas carols (even though they can under law) don't sing Hannukah songs either. The private sector is still full of Christmas Christmas Christmas. When you do your holiday shopping, they won't be playing Hannukah and Solstice songs but no Christmas songs. Where's the different treatment?
12.14.2005 10:25am
dk35 (mail):
For what it's worth, I think that the anger that many commenters are expressing here towarad atheists/agnostics is actually displaced from the anger they feel toward Jews.

First the self-identifier...I am mostly of Jewish heritage (i.e. race) but have never believed in God.

It seems to me that the whole move toward "holiday" identifiers at shopping malls etc., and away from the staging of "Christmas" pagents, etc. in schools, largely started as a concession to the "influx" of Jewish residents in surburbia (in certain parts of the country) starting in the 60s. Whereas the previous generations of Jewish suburbanites were willing to supress their own values for the sake of "fitting in," the more modern generations of Jewish parents felt emboldened to be more confrontational. They were annoyed at having to attend end of the year school functions and watch their children act out the Christian liturgy (or not act it out and then feel socially ostracized by their peers). So, they put pressure on their local school districts to turn to themes that would make all the kids feel welcome, and not force kids to participate to observe other people's religion. They were annoyed that all the shopping malls were screaming Christmas, and only Christmas, for the entire month of December, and they made this annoyance clear to the stores. The stores, thinking that they would make more money not offending these people (and, probably, thinking that there was nothing particularly wrong with being a little sensitive), started the whole hybrid Christmakwanzukkah/Holiday stuff. The analogy is the same for the nativity scenes in the public square.

For those who have problems with developments regarding the issues above, that's fine. But, to fight against that, I think you should be honest enough to admit that your beef in large measure is with the Jews, not the atheists.

Even with regard to the school prayer issue, I would say that Jews were in the forefront of trying to get rid of it (not that they were against prayer, but the practical reality is that when you allow prayer, chances are the majority's religion will win out in terms of what prayer you give). Sure, the atheists were happy with this development, and supported the cause, but since (as everyone admits) self-identified atheists/agnostics are such a minority (I suspect that many self-identified religious people are lying about their belief, but that's for another discussion), their impact on the struggle was relatively minor.

The only issues I think you can really, with any justification, pin on the atheists are the struggles against the public "under God" language (in the pledge, on coins, etc.). In my opinion, I don't really see the consistency of being against public school-led/sponsored prayer (which, I would imagine, is a viewed shared by the majority of Americans at this point), while allowing all the "under God" language. My assumption is that many, if pressed, would admit the inconsistency, but reply that it is simply not worth the fight and administrative costs involved in taking all of those "under God" references out. Frankly, I don't even think most atheists/agnostics care too much about it (though, I have to say, it was a definite inconvenience for my brother to have to be at his young daughter's school every morning for a year to take her out of class for the few minutes that the pledge was being recited, because the school that year refused to have a teacher take my niece out, and he understandably did not want her to be subjected to religious indoctrination).

So, I guess you could attack the Newdows of the world for being pedantic in that they continuously point out an inconsistency even though they have no chance of getting the inconsistency corrected (as a result of public apathy rather than the public outrage that Congress and Fox would have you think is abounding). But my suspicion is that the issues fought and, in some cases, won by the Jews are the more "substantive" issues that concern those who seem concerned.
12.14.2005 10:33am
Marcus1:
DEGOP,

So would this proposed Christmas Protection Act force Muslims, atheists and other religious minorities to welcome Christmas carolers onto their property?

It seems to me that your intent is really to make religious minorities in America more aware of the fact that they are religious minorities. You want them to show respect for the majority religion, respect that you don't feel you should have to show in return. I disagree. I think if Christians look around, they will see that they have extraordinary power. When it comes specifically to matters of religion, though, I don't think they should throw that power around. They shouldn't feel the need to make their de facto position of power "official." It's disrespectful and unnecessary, and will cause a lot more anger than it will heal.

Your ability to celebrate Christmas is completely unlimited. You can have the biggest celebration you want. You can sing Christmas carols all the way through the New Year, if you want, and not stop until next Christmas. It seems that you're only mad because other people don't want to celebrate with you, and because the government is not taking part as much as you would like.

For lack of a better way to put it, I feel like your comments basically reflect poor upbringing, and an inability to play well with others.
12.14.2005 10:38am
Smithy (mail):
So would this proposed Christmas Protection Act force Muslims, atheists and other religious minorities to welcome Christmas carolers onto their property?


No one is suggesting. We're merely suggesting that Christians should be allowed to celebrate Christmas publicly. Is that so scary?
12.14.2005 10:47am
Leon (mail):
Tipping over rocks to find discrimination is not always fruitful. If you notice, of the different groups referred to in the surveys the only two that have significant negatives are atheists and Muslims. If discrimination and bigotry were the primary driving forces, race and gender should be more prominent. A common factor in both groups could be the perception that they do not tolerate public practice of other beliefs unless forced to do so. Groups that litigate against any and all expressions of religion tend to be understood as atheistic in practice if not belief. The lack of tolerance in Muslim countries and writings speaks for itself. Perhaps the negatives reflect more of a belief that members of those groups can not be trusted to leave me alone to practice my beliefs. If you notice, many of the above attacks focus on the notion that Group A is interfering with my practice not that they are inherently evil.
12.14.2005 10:55am
Marcus1:
Smithy,

>What makes you so sure they're wrong.<

Because people have been thinking that forever, amongst a lot of other reasons. Hasn't happened yet.

>Seems a big arrogant of you, frankly.<

Well, the number was 44%, so it looks like I'm actually in the majority. So how does that make me arrogant?

It's funny, though, because I was thinking the same thing about them. I mean, with all the people in the world, and all the different religions, these 44% of Americans think that in their lifetimes, God is going to come down and pick THEM up and take THEM to heaven while condemning everybody else to hell? Talk about arrogant...

See, you look at all the religions of the world and say "Theirs are all wrong, my religion is right." I look at all the religions of the world and say "This all looks like a big misunderstanding." So who is more arrogant?
12.14.2005 10:58am
Marcus1:
dk35,

>For those who have problems with developments regarding the issues above, that's fine. But, to fight against that, I think you should be honest enough to admit that your beef in large measure is with the Jews, not the atheists.<

Good point. Not just Jews though -- Catholics, Jehovahs Witnesses and a lot of other religious minorities too, who are the ones who tend to bring most of the Establishment Clause cases that I'm aware of. Atheists simply make a safer scapegoat.
12.14.2005 11:10am
ea1441 (mail):
Has it not occurred to anyone that the holiday referred to by the phrase "Happy Holidays" is Christmas? So why is it appropriate to boycott stores for using this phrase? "Happy Holidays" we are told is more inclusive, but I'd like to put forth the point that it is inclusive of a larger time frame, not just inclusive of other religions. If I went to a store on at the end of June, and bought a bunch of barbeque supplies, would I get made at an employee wishing me a nice summer, instead of "Happy 4th of July?" No, because it's not the forth of July. It's the same for Christmas. Christmas is a specific day - December 25th, whereas the holiday season extends through pretty much the entire month of December, so why on December 14th should I get angry at a department store employee for wishing me "Happy Holidays' (which it is) instead of "Merry Christmas" (which it isn't for another 11 days)?
12.14.2005 11:43am
Porkchop (mail):

If most secularists don't frown upon celebrating Christmas, why did so many of the residents of this "tolerant" liberal college town I reside in turn us away last year when we were caroling? One man even threatened to call the police if we didn't get off his property. To be fair, I'm sure some of them were Muslim or whatever, but I still think they could be a little bit more respectful of the majority faith of the country they've come to live in. I think we should be allowed to maintain our culture and our identity as God-fearing American Christians without tip-toeing around the beliefs of every single person in town who happens to disagree with us. Is that asking too much? America is ruled by majorities, not minorities. If minority rule was all that mattered, Kerry would be President right now, and Hollywood would be enacting legislation.


So, DEGOP, are you suggesting that Christmas carollers have a right to come on private property whether the owner wants them or not? I guess then that they could just move on into the dining room to carol, too? Stay as long as they like?

"Respect" seems to be kind of a one-way street to you.

Porkchop
12.14.2005 11:51am
Porkchop (mail):
By the way, has anyone considered that the word "holiday" is derived from "holy day"? In what way is wishing someone "happy [holy days]" secularist or atheistic?

Porkchop
12.14.2005 11:55am
sbw (mail) (www):
Smithy: we haven't lost sight of what the post was about, in the sense that we are discussing an issue that affects the way that the Christian majority views atheists.

Smithy is unwilling to abstract the "discussion" to consider a "discussion about the discussion." Sometimes, there is a negative reaction by those who have difficulty in meta-cognition. Perhaps that would explain why earlier in the comments, he dismissed my comment as an insult. Unfortunately for him, his dismissal proves my point -- by the very effort to avoid talking about it.

People don't like talking about how people think, particularly if it might illuminate a personal shortcoming. People concede greater beauty, greater strength, but never better judgment.
12.14.2005 12:19pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Dave Barry has said that "Seasons Greetings" (which is a traditional expression, not a watered-down-in-an-attempt-to-be-inclusive "Happy Holidays", although see also McKenzie, Robert and McKenzie, Douglas on what exactly are the 12 days of Christmas) is as meaningful as greeting someone with "Appropriate Remark!"

One is also reminded of a grocery store attempting to be inclusive in its weekly circular: "To our Christian friends, we wish a Merry Christmas. To our Jewish friends, we wish a Happy Chanukah. To our Atheist friends, good luck."

Meanwhile, those who are calling for the Protection of Christmas Act should take a good look at just what difficulties American Jews have with holding seders, and fasting on Yom Kippur, and building succot. It isn't that hard to practice any religion in this country. OTOH, I live one town over from Lexington, home of one of these creche bans, and my city still puts up a creche each year, and the schools are still teaching, explicitly in the words on one Christmas Pageant song, that everybody has a holiday this time of year, and implicitly, that Chanukah is the high point of the Jewish religious calendar. My children are half-breeds (making them halachically gentile -- it's a long story) and in 2005 we are still facing the issue that I never faced in the Bronx of whether taking part in (one half of) their heritage will subject them to negative social pressure.

FWIW, my all-Jewish birth family celebrates both solstices with a passing recognition of the change in the trend of daylight length.

And what's with Kwanzaa? How did what is at best an ethnic or cultural statement so quickly obtain the status of millenia-old religious celebrations, while Festivus remains a joke?
12.14.2005 12:59pm
DEGOP (mail):

So would this proposed Christmas Protection Act force Muslims, atheists and other religious minorities to welcome Christmas carolers onto their property?


No, of course not. I only mention the caroling incident to refute the argument that secularists and liberals aren't persecuting me for celebrating the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. I'm not suggesting that they should be forced to accept our presence on their property, but I am saying that their refusal to do so is a bit ungrateful. After all, we let them reside in our country and practice their religions despite the fact that this is a Christian country. If this were Afghanistan or Iraq, would secularists be treated so well? It's our Christian tolerance that separates us from the people we're fighting, and I personally think it's ungrateful to repay that tolerance this way. But, that's just my personal opinion.


It seems to me that your intent is really to make religious minorities in America more aware of the fact that they are religious minorities. You want them to show respect for the majority religion, respect that you don't feel you should have to show in return. I disagree. I think if Christians look around, they will see that they have extraordinary power. When it comes specifically to matters of religion, though, I don't think they should throw that power around. They shouldn't feel the need to make their de facto position of power "official." It's disrespectful and unnecessary, and will cause a lot more anger than it will heal.


I don't think minorities need to be told they're in the minority. Please. Everyone knows this is a Christian country, which is why it's so angering to see Christianity trampled underfoot like it is in vast swathes of America today.

As for showing respect for other religions, I'll happily do so if I'm ever in the country where they are the custom and the culture. Right now, I live in America, where the custom and culture is Christianity. It's really as simple as that. Only you liberals feel the need to make everything seem so much more complicated than it is. If people don't like living in a Christian country, it's not hard to get out of here. I'm sure they can all find another country where they won't be bothered by carolers in December.


Your ability to celebrate Christmas is completely unlimited. You can have the biggest celebration you want. You can sing Christmas carols all the way through the New Year, if you want, and not stop until next Christmas. It seems that you're only mad because other people don't want to celebrate with you, and because the government is not taking part as much as you would like.


What makes me mad isn't that everyone doesn't agree with me. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. That's why the Bible discusses the righteous and the unjust, and the blessed and the sinners. We're all asked to choose sides, and as much as it breaks my heart I don't expect everyone to choose the side I'm on. It doesn't make me angry, it makes me sad.

What does make me angry, though, is that these people are trying to set up a society where I'm oppressed and not able to share my faith with my children. A society where I have to explain to my children why they can't talk about Christmas in public. A society where the majority is treated like the minority, where 230 million people have to bow and scrape because doing what they believe in might offend a couple of million others. Yes, that makes me very angry, Marcus, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.


For lack of a better way to put it, I feel like your comments basically reflect poor upbringing, and an inability to play well with others.


Well, unlike you, I'll keep my opinions about your upbringing to myself. It is funny that you then comment in the next sentence on MY inability to play well with others, though. That's classy. But it's alright, I forgive you. In the fullness of time, the Lord will decide who was right and who was wrong.
12.14.2005 1:00pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Thanks, DEGOP, for reminding me. I sometimes forget that the worst I have to face is not kids thinking I'm wierd because I'm not a Christian, but adults thinking that I'm less of an American for that same reason.
12.14.2005 1:09pm
Colin:
DEGOP said, "I only mention the caroling incident to refute the argument that secularists and liberals aren't persecuting me for celebrating the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. I'm not suggesting that they should be forced to accept our presence on their property, but I am saying that their refusal to do so is a bit ungrateful. After all, we let them reside in our country and practice their religions despite the fact that this is a Christian country." (emphasis added)

This is the bizarre double standard that seems so strikingly dishonest and arrogant. DEGOP thinks that he is being persecuted because his neighbors, who don't share his religious beliefs, don't appreciate him celebrating his religion on their property. This is what constitutes Christianity being "trampled underfoot"?

Moreover, this is not a "Christian country." Christians don't "let" nonbelievers live here; we have every right that you do; we're even (shockingly enough) full citizens. There's a famous document that says so. You might have heard of it, but you don't appear to have read it.

"What does make me angry, though, is that these people are trying to set up a society where I'm oppressed and not able to share my faith with my children. A society where I have to explain to my children why they can't talk about Christmas in public."

I was raised as a Christian, and I recall being taught that honesty was a central virtue of the faith. No one is preventing you from teaching your children about your faith. You can. Nor is anyone preventing them from talking about the holiday in public. They can. And who defends those rights? Among others, the ACLU and liberals. Vigorously and enthusiastically. What can't you do? You can't tax others to support your religion, or use the power of the state to establish your beliefs above all others. And that's persecution? Whatever happened to honesty?
12.14.2005 1:22pm
ea1441 (mail):

I am saying that their refusal to do so is a bit ungrateful.


Would you be uncomfortable if someone of another religion came onto your property and expected you to listen to them sing about their faith? Probably. It's not that these people don't want you to carol, or celebrate Christmas, they just don't feel comfortable taking an active role (and I'd say opening the door to spend a period of time listening to carols is active) in your celebration.


After all, we let them reside in our country and practice their religions despite the fact that this is a Christian country. If this were Afghanistan or Iraq, would secularists be treated so well? It's our Christian tolerance that separates us from the people we're fighting, and I personally think it's ungrateful to repay that tolerance this way.


"We" let non-Christians live in this country? You make it sound like this is some big favor that the Christian population is doing, not a basic right of any non-Christian with US citizenship or permanent residency. And finally, why is it that whenever someone has some sort of problem with how this country is being run, they are accosted with, "would you rather be living in Iraq or Afghanistan?" There are other countries in the world, you know. Countries like New Zealand, or Iceland. I think someone mentioned that Sweden is a highly secular country that manages to celebrate Christmas just fine. Maybe it would make more sense to compare ourselves to Sweden in this case, than Iraq.
12.14.2005 1:35pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
For those who don't think Christians are subject to persecution, see Professor Volokh's discussion of a case where a library employee got in trouble for wearing a cross. From the description, it appears to have been one of those "chilling effect" results of the ACLU's vigorous attempts to suppress Christianity on all public property.
12.14.2005 2:06pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Why would you think that the man who said this was likely an atheist?


"We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."


Yes, that was Hitler, the same man who wrote in Mein Kampf


"I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord's work."


He also included that in one his speeches near the beginning of WW2.
You might want to read what his close associates, like Albert Speer, had to say about what Hitler said in private. Hitler in public made statements intended to keep the German population behind his actions; in private, he considered the neo-pagan stuff that some of his lieutenants dabbled in to be nonsense, and suggested that if they were going to bother with religious trappings, they might as well stick to the Church, because it had tradition. It isn't a clear statement of atheism, but it does suggest that he considered religion of all forms silly.

A little more persuasive evidence is how the pre-World War I slogan, "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Gott" (one people, one nation, one God--emphasizing that Germans whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish worshipped one God) was changed by Hitler to "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer".

Without question, Hitler's anti-Semitism had a significant Catholic origin to it. Pre-World War I Vienna (where Hitler lived) apparently required Jews to wear identifying patches on their clothes when out in public. What is interesting is how traditional anti-Semitism, which was based on religion, morphed in the 20th century into an ethnically-based hatred. Converting to Christianity was of no value, because Hitler's hatred was based on a Social Darwinist perspective.
12.14.2005 2:15pm
Inspector Callahan (mail):
Bruce starts with a question:

I don't know why there's such public hostility towards atheists. I've met several and they don't seem any different than anyone else.

Then aob says,

You know, because believing in an invisible magic friend/wish-granter is apparently more important to the voting public than intelligence or experience, a fact that we need not look farther than King Jesus Bush the Lesser to confirm.

Can I say game, set, match?

TV (Harry)
12.14.2005 2:32pm
Colin:
"For those who don't think Christians are subject to persecution, see Professor Volokh's discussion of a case where a library employee got in trouble for wearing a cross. From the description, it appears to have been one of those "chilling effect" results of the ACLU's vigorous attempts to suppress Christianity on all public property."

Except, of course, that the policy in question applied to all religious jewelry, not just crosses. So it's hardly "persecuting" Christians. And, of course, the ACLU didn't have anything to do with the case, much less make "vigorous attempts to suppress Christianity on all public property." And, of course, the court found the policy to be a free exercise violation without any particular fuss or muss.

But please, don't let the facts, reason, or rationality dissuade you from blaming your favorite bogeymen for the near-extinction of Christianity.
12.14.2005 2:38pm
Marcus1:
DEGOP,

>After all, we let them reside in our country and practice their religions despite the fact that this is a Christian country.<

This is why I commented on your upbringing. You just claimed that you "let" me live in this country, despite the fact that I was born here. To put it mildly, them's fightin words.

Fortunately, your view is specifically repudiated in the Constitution, which states that Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion. Contrary to your belief, this is NOT a Christian country, simply because the majority of people are Christians.

It's people like you that confirm to me the damage that religion can do. Your false certainty that you are one of God's army has completely corrupted your world view. If people like you were in charge, we would be fighting religious wars in this country.

Religious extremism never ceases to amaze me.
12.14.2005 2:40pm
wildmon (mail):
Fortunately, your view is specifically repudiated in the Constitution, which states that Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion.


That means there can be no law establishing a state religion (think Church of England). It has nothing to do with wearing religious jewelry in a library or putting a creche up in a park.

Some people think that since they don't believe in something, no one else can either. This kind of thinking ignores another portion of the text in the 1st Amendment, "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". As seen by the attacks on Christmas, some groups want to prohibit Chrisitans from celebrating the birth of Christ.
12.14.2005 3:08pm
Colin:
"As seen by the attacks on Christmas, some groups want to prohibit Chrisitans from celebrating the birth of Christ."

No one wants to do that. No one is doing that. How is any Christian prevented from celebrating Christmas? The only thing that is prohibited is using the government to support the religion. Since when was the support of the state a central tenet--or even a peripheral tenet--of Christianity? I've said it before: there is a fundamental dishonesty at play with these rabid claims that Christians are being persecuted by not being allowed to give their faith the full force of law.
12.14.2005 3:36pm
MaryC (mail):
The problem, Colin, is that government is so enmeshed into our everyday lives, that if they turn their backs on Christianity, it DOES affect us. I don't think that we're being persecuted, per se (haven't seen any lions running around lately.) However, I do think that there is an atmosphere in our society that makes mocking Christianity more and more acceptable. Look at Christmases of 20 years ago. We had Christmas concerts, Christmas trees, Christmas carols, nativity scenes. Other religions had their symbols of celebration as well. And that was great. But now, it seems as though the word "Christmas", and especially any mention of the religious aspect of it (as opposed to the commercial aspect of it), is being slowly eroded from public discourse. It just makes me wonder what things are going to be like 20 years from now, and if we're going to regret having minimized this when we could have had a chance to nip it in the bud?
12.14.2005 3:44pm
Colin:
"The problem, Colin, is that government is so enmeshed into our everyday lives, that if they turn their backs on Christianity, it DOES affect us."

And? The government hasn't "turned its back" on Christianity any more than it has on Islam, or Judaism, or Shinto. The government's secular nature doesn't keep anyone from celebrating Christmas. It doesn't keep you from having a concert, or a tree, or singing a carol, or putting up a nativity scene. You can't put a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn, but so what? Why would Jesus care? If you want "Christmas" to be in public discourse, then talk about it. If you miss Christmas concerts, then sponsor one. If you miss carols, then sing some. No one is keeping you from doing these things, or even wants to stop you from doing them. And you certainly don't need the government to privilege Christianity above all other faiths to do them.

"However, I do think that there is an atmosphere in our society that makes mocking Christianity more and more acceptable."

I don't mock Christianity, nor do I know of anyone who does. Outside of a few intemperate blog posts and standup routines, I can't think of any mockery of Christianity that I've seen. Do you think that breathless claims of persecution (which I realize that you haven't made) help, or hurt? If you're concerned with the public image of the faith, why is it not enough to just be a devout, decent and faithful person in response? Why do you need other people's tax dollars to assist you in being a good Christian?
12.14.2005 4:16pm
DEGOP (mail):

Thanks, DEGOP, for reminding me. I sometimes forget that the worst I have to face is not kids thinking I'm wierd because I'm not a Christian, but adults thinking that I'm less of an American for that same reason.


I can respect your earnestness and passion, but if I were you I'd worry a lot less about my opinion, and a lot more about eternal salvation.
12.14.2005 4:35pm
DEGOP (mail):

This is the bizarre double standard that seems so strikingly dishonest and arrogant. DEGOP thinks that he is being persecuted because his neighbors, who don't share his religious beliefs, don't appreciate him celebrating his religion on their property. This is what constitutes Christianity being "trampled underfoot"?


That's an excellent question. This is the thin end of the wedge. This is the "slippery slope" your liberal lawyers are so fond of talking about when it comes time to bash President Bush or say that the Patriot Act is two inches away from Nazi concentration camps. The difference, though, is that unlike those left-wing conspiracy theory fantasies and slanders, the threat to Christianity itself in America is very real. It's going on all around us. If you tuned in to Bill O'Reilly to get the facts instead of getting your information from folks like Dan Rather who base their reporting on dubious forgeries, you'd see the evidence a bit more clearly.


Moreover, this is not a "Christian country." Christians don't "let" nonbelievers live here; we have every right that you do; we're even (shockingly enough) full citizens. There's a famous document that says so. You might have heard of it, but you don't appear to have read it.


Which one? The Declaration of Independence? I seem to recall that has some language in it about people being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." Face it, this has always been a Christian country. It still is today, despite the fact that in certain quarters it's been unpopular to admit this since the 1960s.


"We" let non-Christians live in this country? You make it sound like this is some big favor that the Christian population is doing, not a basic right of any non-Christian with US citizenship or permanent residency. And finally, why is it that whenever someone has some sort of problem with how this country is being run, they are accosted with, "would you rather be living in Iraq or Afghanistan?" There are other countries in the world, you know. Countries like New Zealand, or Iceland. I think someone mentioned that Sweden is a highly secular country that manages to celebrate Christmas just fine. Maybe it would make more sense to compare ourselves to Sweden in this case, than Iraq.


Well, if you'd like to move to Sweden or New Zealand instead, go right ahead. Nobody's forcing you to stay in a country that wants to celebrate Christmas, and nobody's forcing you to move to a country that saws your head off for not celebrating Ramadan. All we're saying is that America celebrates Christmas, and if that bothers people maybe they'd be happier somewhere else. No accounting for taste, you know. If people want to pay European taxes and enjoy staggering unemployment rates, nobody here's going to stop them from leaving. You can even stay, if you want, but don't think you can tread on my rights. It's a free country for both of us, and if you leftists can win an election and command a majority, you can call the shots. Until then, we're in charge.
12.14.2005 4:58pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Colin writes:


Except, of course, that the policy in question applied to all religious jewelry, not just crosses. So it's hardly "persecuting" Christians.
Yeah, just like the laws passed in Poland regulating how meat was slaughtered applied to everyone--that they just happened to primarily impact kosher meat preparation was just a coincidence. :-)


And, of course, the ACLU didn't have anything to do with the case, much less make "vigorous attempts to suppress Christianity on all public property."
I was specific that the problem is the "chilling effect" that ACLU suits have had because they create a perception in bureaucrats that any expression of religion in a public place is suspect.
12.14.2005 5:20pm
Colin:
"The difference, though, is that unlike those left-wing conspiracy theory fantasies and slanders, the threat to Christianity itself in America is very real. It's going on all around us."

Except that no one can provide any examples, except Exhibit A: Christianity isn't given a privileged position and the force of law, nor is it supported by public tax dollars. I still don't see how that's a threat to Christianity. Why will the faith wither and die if it's not allowed to bang the gavel?

"If you tuned in to Bill O'Reilly to get the facts..."

Gosh, there are so many rejoinders to that phrase. So many. This is what I settled on: "Wait, which do you want me to do? Tune into Bill O'Reilly or get the facts?"

I don't get my facts from media pundits. I respectfully recommend that you look elsewhere as well, in order to broaden your perspective.
12.14.2005 5:28pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Except that no one can provide any examples, except Exhibit A: Christianity isn't given a privileged position and the force of law, nor is it supported by public tax dollars. I still don't see how that's a threat to Christianity. Why will the faith wither and die if it's not allowed to bang the gavel?
You've already responded to one of those examples: a woman in trouble for wearing a cross at work in a public place. The courts finally put a stop to this, but think of all the occasions when someone just shuts up and goes along?

I've given several examples of where the ACLU's efforts have generated such fear among school administrators that actions that are CLEARLY protected under freedom of religion are called "illegal" by teachers.
12.14.2005 5:39pm
Colin:
"The courts finally put a stop to this, but think of all the occasions when someone just shuts up and goes along?"

The victims--not just Christians, but all victims of illegal regulations--should fight for their rights. A great first step is to call the ACLU, which has defended religious freedom vigorously and enthusiastically.

"I've given several examples of where the ACLU's efforts have generated such fear among school administrators that actions that are CLEARLY protected under freedom of religion are called "illegal" by teachers."

No you haven't. You've given a few anecdotes of administrators doing silly things, then claimed that it's somehow the ACLU's fault. You just haven't shown how. Perhaps it's some sort of Satanic mind control? The ACLU doesn't keep kids from reading the Bible, or stop librarians from wearing crosses; it defends those rights, and quite diligently. They've somehow become your personal nemesis, though, so you blame every ill on them with fanatic zeal. I haven't seen any logic to back up your fury, though.

The tinfoil-hat brigade keeps shouting that the ACLU is out to destroy Christianity! And people won't be able to teach their kids about their religion! And no one will remember Christmas! But none of that is true. If people are afraid that stormtroopers are coming after their faith, it's not because it's actually happening... Quite simply, I blame extremist rhetoric from within for that fear, because there doesn't seem to be any basis for it in the real world.

And with that, I realize that I have helped take this thread far off course. I apologize, and I'll be good from here on out.
12.14.2005 5:59pm
Marcus1:
Wildmon,

DEGOP stated that religious minorities should be happy that Christians let them live in this country. He said that it most clearly is a Christian country. You can try to parse the first amendment all you want, but if the government can't establish a religion, then this is not a "Christian country," and nobody needs to consider themselves grateful to anybody else for being allowed to live here.
12.14.2005 8:22pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Colin, examples have been given. I posted a link earlier in this very thread. When you say "no examples have been given", when in fact examples have been given, you look disingenuous.


After the terrorist attack on September 11th, Breen Elementary School in Rocklin, California put the words "God Bless America" on the marquee outside their school. After a complaint by the parent of one student at the school, the ACLU sent school officials a letter demanding that the sign be taken down, claiming the message was an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
12.14.2005 9:22pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Marcus,

if the government can't establish a religion, then this is not a "Christian country,"

That is only a true statement if you believe all reality is determined by the government.

The US is largely a Christian country as a matter of culture and history. The Constitution does not require the federal goverment to deny or ignore that reality.
12.14.2005 9:27pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
You wrote:


I hope to God you're not referring to your citation of Hamburger's book, which has been torn to shreds by real scholars, including Doug Laycock.



I replied to you (in part):


Before tearing someone to shreds, one has to show that Hamburger is wrong in several of his major claims. As a first step, would you mind pointing out a single significant error of Hamburger's that Laycock found (not Laycock's strongly expressed opinions, but an actual major historical error)?



You replied by quoting Laycock's "review of Hamburger's book in the Chicago Law Review":



When [Hamburger] says the founding generation did not intend separation, he is plainly right as he uses the term. But he will inevitably be read to claim, and he does nothing to dispel the implication, that they did not intend separation at all—not as anyone uses the term. The book's dominant themes thus depend on a persistent slippage between Hamburger's meaning and more common meanings. He carefully documents a widely used nineteenth-century meaning, but he simply asserts, or assumes, that the concept had the same meaning in the eighteenth century, when he says it was rejected, and has that meaning at the turn of the twenty-first century, when he says it is dominant.




I asked you to point out a major instance in which Hamburger is wrong, not in which Laycock is wrong. Laycock's main claim in the passage you picked is obviously FALSE; Laycock claims: Hamburger "carefully documents a widely used nineteenth-century meaning, but simply asserts, or assumes, that the concept had the same meaning in the eighteenth century, when he says it was rejected, and has that meaning at the turn of the twenty-first century . . ."

As anyone who read Hamburger's book knows, Hamburger lays out how the meaning of Separation has changed over time; that is one of the strongest parts of the book. For example, the late-19th century view (esp. held by nativists) was that Separation allowed Protestant teaching and prayers in public schools, but not Catholic ("sectarian") teaching and prayers. The common late 20th century view was, of course, very different—that Protestant prayers were barred by Separation of Church and State. Hamburger documents this major change in the meaning of Separation.

So Laycock's criticism here is clearly, demonstrably dead wrong. Most of Laycock's criticisms are similar, proceeding from misreadings so gross that, if I didn't know Laycock personally, I would assume they are intentional.

Bobbie, you also wrote:


About the only thing Hamburger proved is that the phrase "separation of church and state" is a meaningless catch phrase.



But Hamburger most certainly did not show that that Separation is a meaningless catch phrase. He documented its various meanings in his book.

Bobbie, I appreciate your responding seriously, but I don't think that anyone, let alone Laycock, has torn Hamburger to shreds. On the contrary, I have been struck by how feeble and non-substantive the flailing attacks have been so far.

Jim Lindgren
12.14.2005 9:46pm
Marcus1:
Me:
if the government can't establish a religion, then this is not a "Christian country,"
You:
That is only a true statement if you believe all reality is determined by the government.

The US is largely a Christian country as a matter of culture and history. The Constitution does not require the federal goverment to deny or ignore that reality

The thing that differentiates us from just a bunch of people living together on a continent is that we are a country, organized under a Constitution. That Constitution specifically states that this is not a Christian nation, nor a nation of any religion. This is a country of many religions, and people with no religion at all. If you want to say America is largely Christian, say it is largely Christian. But it is not a Christian nation.

Canada, as I understand, has two official languages -- French and English. You strike me as someone who would want to go around in Canada saying "This is an English-speaking country" simply to piss off the French-speakers. Everybody knows there are more English speakers in Canada than French speaers. That's not a reason to go around proclaiming it an English-speaking country. You should be nicer to other people, not try to delegitimize them. Otherwise, it's not much of a country at all.
12.14.2005 9:51pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):

A thing that differentiates us from just a bunch of people living together on a continent is that we are a country, organized under a Constitution. We also have a distinct culture and history, of which Christianity is a very prominent part.

This is mostly semantics:

If you want to say America is largely Christian, say it is largely Christian. But it is not a Christian nation.


Ours is not just a country that happens to presently have a lot of Christians living in it. Religion, specifically the Judeo-Christian tradition, is an integral part of our history and culture.
12.14.2005 9:58pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Marcus, A more apt analogy would be to describe the United States as an English-speaking country, even though there are people in America who don't speak English.

You should learn to avoid ad hominem in your comments.
12.14.2005 10:02pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Editors:

No. Race is the more apt analogy. America is overwhelmingly predominantly white, but we don't go around thundering that we are a "white nation," because we know those who do have a bigoted agenda.

We are a nation comprised predominantly of whites but our government institutions are in the ideal, colorblind. The same is true of religion: See among other things, the much ignored Art. VI of the US Constitution.
12.14.2005 10:34pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
DEGOP attempts to save me:

I can respect your earnestness and passion, but if I were you I'd worry a lot less about my opinion, and a lot more about eternal salvation.


That's cool. As far as I'm concerned, in matters of faith, there can be no dispute. (That's why ID isn't Science.) Pascal's wager and all that. (And according to many non-evangelical religions, we could both win our personal Pascal wager, if mine is the right path for me and yours is the right path for you.)

But in matters of Constitution, oh boy can there be disputes! This is a country that has a majority of,
and was founded by, monotheists ("Judeo-Christian",
which is like saying "The strawberry dispenser was
broken, so all they had was choco-vanilla flavors"),
more specifically Christians, still more specifically
Protestantish Christians, who were personally more
Deist-leaning) but as Marcus1 most recently, and others point out, non-establishment means exactly that "This is an X country", where X is a particular religion or group of related religions, is patently false.
12.14.2005 10:43pm
Marcus1:
Why is that a better analogy? English is the official language in the U.S., while our Constitution specifically prohibits establishing a religion. It seems you completley missed my point.

As far as our cultural history, I think we also have a unique history of embracing all religions as equal in America. Can you point out, though, what you're talking about? Is our country really more Judeo-Christian than their populational representation? How so? If anything, I think our separation of church and state is something that has really set us apart from other nations since our founding.

I'm also curious about the Judeo part, come to think of it. It just occurred to me, is that just something Christians say to form a more PC coalition?

My comments on your character are not ad hominems. I am specifically suggesting that the position you articulate is disrespectful of other Americans. Disrespectful, though, is really far too mild of a word. You appear completely blind to the fact that the government applies to ALL people, and is funded by all people, and must be accepted by all people, not just the majority. You seem to forget that there is no legitimate power by which a religious majority can exert influence over a religious minority. No religious minorities have consented in any way to such a system.

Of course,you try to minimize your agenda by saying that the government should simply be "allowed" to "recognize" Christmas, but clearly you have bigger intentions, since the government already does recognize Christmas, and then some. That is why I am pointing out that, not only are you factually mistaken, but your position is also disrespectful and immoral.
12.14.2005 11:05pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

This is a country that has a majority of,
and was founded by, monotheists ("Judeo-Christian",
which is like saying "The strawberry dispenser was
broken, so all they had was choco-vanilla flavors"),


That's a good point. Our Founders never used the term "Judeo-Christian."

Looking at various state policies, there were many variants as to which religion(s) should get religious rights, and which shouldn't.

If we could form two dominant schools of thought, however, on the "religious rights" issue, it would be this: One school who thought that "rights" only belonged to the Protestant Christian sects (not Catholics, not Muslims, not Jews), and the other than wanted rights to apply universally to all religious, no matter how unorthodox. In other words, Jews and Catholics took their rights along with Deists, Muslims, Hindus, and other Pagans.
12.14.2005 11:40pm
Marcus1:
DEGOP,

The thing that drives me nuts about people like you is that you have adopted a worldview which completely rules out the possibility that people could honestly disagree with you.

Despite the fact that you take your religion on faith, and probably recognize that it makes fantastic claims, you have completely convinced yourself that the only reason someone could possibly disbelieve these claims is if they are somehow evil and have chosen to reject God.

It tends to create a situation where absolutely nothing I say or do can possibly change your mind, since you have already completely delegitimized anybody coming from my position.

The biggest irony of this may be that Christians aren't even the only ones who do it. Fundamentalist Muslims, in the exact same way, simply take on faith that everybody else would find Islam too if they only tried or cared. They too have completely ruled out the possibility that a good person could reject Islam. And yet, despite the fact that Christians and Muslims do this exact same thing, and despite the fact that each can see how plainly irrational it is when done by the other, neither seems to realize how thoroughly hypocritical they both are.

Incidentally, I and the average atheist are probably about as worried that the Bible is thre true word of God as you are worried that the Koran is the true word of God.

Of course, some people do realize the hypocricy of fundamentalist religion. As Mark Twain said, "The easy confidence with which I dismiss another man's religion causes me to doubt my own." But no, you have to believe that's impossible. Clearly, he must just be angry at god or something…

I mean, I wouldn't even say anything about it, except that you insist on making your views political. As such, I really don't have much choice.
12.15.2005 12:10am
DEGOP (mail):

Except that no one can provide any examples, except Exhibit A: Christianity isn't given a privileged position and the force of law, nor is it supported by public tax dollars. I still don't see how that's a threat to Christianity. Why will the faith wither and die if it's not allowed to bang the gavel?


That's an interesting point. But personally, I view a tax exemption as being identical to official support. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on that one, but look at it this way: if a mugger takes everyone else's wallet but leaves yours intact, isn't it fair to assume that he likes you? Sure, other religions are exempt, too. But that's just another example of American generosity: We extend to our guests the same courtesy that we extend ourselves.

As far as "banging gavels" goes, I'd greatly prefer a judge who grounded his rulings in force of law and custom than one who'd rule based on what he'd had for breakfast that morning or what his son's rap music told him was cool the night before.

I don't have much to say about your point about Bill O'Reilly, though. I respectfully submit that you should watch him before leaping to any conclusions. The man says what needs to be said about what's going wrong with this country. Not to be rude, but I'm pretty sure none of your "news sources" are going to hold a candle to him.
12.15.2005 12:13am
DEGOP (mail):

That's cool. As far as I'm concerned, in matters of faith, there can be no dispute. (That's why ID isn't Science.) Pascal's wager and all that. (And according to many non-evangelical religions, we could both win our personal Pascal wager, if mine is the right path for me and yours is the right path for you.)


That's true. Unfortunately, I have to agree. Some people do belong on the path into Hell. For your sake, I hope you repent and take the path to righteousness instead. But ultimately, the choice is yours.


But in matters of Constitution, oh boy can there be disputes! This is a country that has a majority of,
and was founded by, monotheists ("Judeo-Christian",
which is like saying "The strawberry dispenser was
broken, so all they had was choco-vanilla flavors"),
more specifically Christians, still more specifically
Protestantish Christians, who were personally more
Deist-leaning) but as Marcus1 most recently, and others point out, non-establishment means exactly that "This is an X country", where X is a particular religion or group of related religions, is patently false.


The Founders were trying to prevent disputes between varying denominations of Christianity; some denominations were more prevalent in some of the colonies than in others. It was only much, much later, that liberal activist judges and their cohorts in the ACLU turned the Constitution into a zombie document that lives and breathes in unholy alliance with Al Qaeda and the Nazis and the Communist Party. Those are the facts.
12.15.2005 12:24am
DEGOP (mail):

The thing that drives me nuts about people like you is that you have adopted a worldview which completely rules out the possibility that people could honestly disagree with you.


No, I believe the disagreement is an honest mistake. There's a key difference there from waht you've said, you see. There are many different opinions, but there is only one truth.


Despite the fact that you take your religion on faith, and probably recognize that it makes fantastic claims, you have completely convinced yourself that the only reason someone could possibly disbelieve these claims is if they are somehow evil and have chosen to reject God.


What religion isn't based on faith? Oh, evolution, right? I suppose the idea that giant lizards ate your monkey grandfather is a lot easier to swallow than the idea that God loves you so much He sent His only begotten child to die for your sins, is that it? I'm not saying that those who don't believe are necessarily evil, merely that they are misguided and desperately in need of spiritual salvation before it's too late. I'm certain that many of these people you assumed I view as "evil" are destined for redemption.


It tends to create a situation where absolutely nothing I say or do can possibly change your mind, since you have already completely delegitimized anybody coming from my position.


Well, you do the same thing, don't you? It seems like any idea or impulse coming from another person's faith is automatically nonsense to you.


The biggest irony of this may be that Christians aren't even the only ones who do it. Fundamentalist Muslims, in the exact same way, simply take on faith that everybody else would find Islam too if they only tried or cared. They too have completely ruled out the possibility that a good person could reject Islam. And yet, despite the fact that Christians and Muslims do this exact same thing, and despite the fact that each can see how plainly irrational it is when done by the other, neither seems to realize how thoroughly hypocritical they both are.


I'm well aware that those of other faiths view are every bit as certain of theirs as I am of mine (and as you are of yours, no doubt, whatever atheistic deviancies it may contain). The true religion is known by its fruits. The followers of Islam have toppled the World Trade Center and sawed the heads off of innocent civilians. The followers of atheism killed tens of millions of people for their false prophets, Stalin and Marx. I'm certainly not going to say that Christianity hasn't been misused from time to time- take Jim Jones, for example. But in recorded history, what religion has a higher death toll than Marxist evolutionism? What religion has been more barbaric than Islam? I don't see anything hypocritical in pointing this out. What I see as hypocritical is conflating the true religion with the religion of Al Qaeda, while ignoring the strong similarities between Islamofascism and the leftist tenets of Stalin and Hitler.


Incidentally, I and the average atheist are probably about as worried that the Bible is thre true word of God as you are worried that the Koran is the true word of God.


That goes without saying. But don't worry. In the fullness of time, all things will be revealed to you.


Of course, some people do realize the hypocricy of fundamentalist religion. As Mark Twain said, "The easy confidence with which I dismiss another man's religion causes me to doubt my own." But no, you have to believe that's impossible. Clearly, he must just be angry at god or something…


I do remember reading one short story of his in high school in which he wrote about an angel who killed people with indifferent amusement. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of it, it's been many years. But I do remember thinking that Twain certainly was angry at God. Why else would he write an entire short story making fun of Him and those who believe in Him?


I mean, I wouldn't even say anything about it, except that you insist on making your views political. As such, I really don't have much choice.


Well, you'll always have Sweden. And New Zealand. And Communist Cuba. And Iraq. And Afghanistan. And so on, and so forth. Or, if you Godless secularists ever manage to hoodwink enough people into forming a majority behind you, you might even manage to win an election or two toward accomplishing your heinous goals here. But I wouldn't exactly stay up waiting for that to happen, if I were you.
12.15.2005 12:58am
Smithy (mail):
DEGOP, I am also an evangelical Christian, but I think you're going a little too far. I don't consider the secularists to have "heinous goals." I believe that want what they think is best for this society. Unfortunately, they consider more secularization of institutions to be best, while you and I consider more robust faith-based practices to be best. Still, I'm not ready to exile them to Cuba! But I would like to be free to celebrate Chrismas the way I see fit without getting sued by the ACLU.
12.15.2005 9:30am
MaryC (mail):
Smithy - exactly. And even though people have pointed out that the ACLU hasn't sued anybody for celebrating Christmas (yet), it still stands to reason that when you look back, it's frightening how much anti-Christian sentiment has grown in the last 20 years. It's considered pretty acceptable in our society to belittle Christians, and to question their intelligence. Where will it end? Will it go from mockery, to disdain, to marginalization, to outright persecution? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'm not willing to sit idly by and potentially let that happen.
12.15.2005 9:51am
Marcus1:
MaryC,

If mockery, disdain and marginalization leading to outright persecution concern you, I would think you would have some sympathy for the position of atheists in America.
12.15.2005 9:58am
MaryC (mail):
Actually, I do. I have no problem with people being atheists. And let's just say if atheism had a specific holiday, with certain traditions and decorations specific to that holiday, I would not ask them to change the names of their traditions, or to desist from public displays of their traditions, in order to avoid offending my sensibilities. But that's what Christians are being asked to do right now. And I'm not saying that we have to exclude other celebrations that take place at this time of year, but I see no reason why our own traditions have to be re-named and watered down in order to avoid offending people. Even if you're not religious, if the name of Jesus offends you, I think you're being a bit oversensitive.
12.15.2005 10:05am
Colin:
DEGOP, re: Bill O'Reilly:

The problem is that O'Reilly lies. Frequently. As far as I can tell, he does it either to fire up his base and make himself more influential, or simply because he knows that his viewers aren't interesting in true things as long as they can hear things that make them feel self-righteous and unjustly persecuted.

That first link is interesting; Smithy, you cited the "Cold in the Night" myth. It's not true. I repeat what I've been saying all along--this persecution complex is based on what is at best a casual lack of interest in the truth, and at worst extreme dishonesty.
12.15.2005 10:06am
DEGOP (mail):

DEGOP, I am also an evangelical Christian, but I think you're going a little too far. I don't consider the secularists to have "heinous goals." I believe that want what they think is best for this society. Unfortunately, they consider more secularization of institutions to be best, while you and I consider more robust faith-based practices to be best. Still, I'm not ready to exile them to Cuba! But I would like to be free to celebrate Chrismas the way I see fit without getting sued by the ACLU.


Oh, I didn't mean to imply that the secularists want to destroy America deliberately. Most of them are decent enough people deep down, albeit hopelessly misguided. The ones you really have to watch out for are the ACLU and the activist judges and the politicians and media figures. These people are obviously well-educated enough to know better, yet they continue to spout utter nonsense in order to score votes from constituents who aren't well-informed about the issues. It's quite evil, actually, when you think about it.

As far as protecting Christmas goes, though, we are 110% in agreement. Nothing is more important right now. In my opinion, this is one of the most important issues in America today. How can we defeat terrorism overseas in Iraq if we can't defeat domestic terrorism in our own backyards?
12.15.2005 10:21am
DEGOP (mail):

The problem is that O'Reilly lies. Frequently. As far as I can tell, he does it either to fire up his base and make himself more influential, or simply because he knows that his viewers aren't interesting in true things as long as they can hear things that make them feel self-righteous and unjustly persecuted.


First of all, thank you for the links. They're interesting. But as for the first one, it sounds like the jury is still out on whatever happened at this school district, and until all the facts are in it seems unreasonable to bandy around ad hominems like calling someone a liar just because you disagree with them.

Frankly, as far as the second link goes I have to reject it. Do you really trust Media Matters? David Brock says that he made a career out of lying for Republicans. Why do you automatically trust him, then, now that he's lying for Democrats? I think he told the truth before, and simply saw greener financial pastures in "converting" to liberalism. But I'm sure we'll have to agree to disagree on that one. I certainly won't try to belabor the point with you. The fact is, I trust Bill O'Reilly a great deal more than I trust a man who calls himself a professional liar.
12.15.2005 10:52am
MaryC (mail):
DEGOP - Whoa, Nelly! I understand that you're upset about this, and so am I. But equating this with terrorism is just going to make it that much easier for people to not take us seriously. Let's stick to the facts, shall we? Anti-Christian sentiment in this country has grown in the last 20 years. Christians are witnessing having their traditions changed for the sake of not offending people. We need to stand up for our traditions (and can do so without infringing on others' traditions), before this disdain for Christianity turns into something ugly.

I think we need to stay reasonable on this...there is room in America for ALL traditions. We don't want other traditions to be shut out, but nor do we want our own to be slowly eroded away.

But that's what's happening.

So we can rant and rave and be ignored, or we can very calmly and reasonably work together to make sure that our traditions are protected. I wrote to Congress yesterday and let them know that I heard about a supposed Christmas Protection Act, that would help stop this erosion, and that I would fully support such a measure. We need to make our voices heard, but in a coherent way.
12.15.2005 11:13am
Medis:
I always find it interesting when someone leaps from a proposition like "Christianity has played an important role in American history and continues to play an important role in American culture," or simply "a majority of Americans are Christians," to a proposition like "America is a Christian nation." It seems like an obvious fallacy (confusing the part with the whole).

So, I can't help but think the appeal to this leap is the implication that while one must grudgingly admit that non-Christian religions, and non-religious philosophies, also have played and are playing a role in American history and culture, and while many Americans are not Christians, nonetheless Christians should enjoy a privileged status in America (because it is "their" nation). In other words, this notion that America is a "Christian nation" is not about recognizing the facts of our history, culture, or demographics--it is about securing special power, status, and privilege for Christians DESPITE our actual history, culture, and demographics.

Which was probably obvious from the start, but it seems interesting that on the one hand some of the proponents of this notion seem to think it is necessary to place this veneer over it, but on the other hand they think that veneer can be transparently thin.
12.15.2005 11:55am
Colin:
DEGOP,

I'm not sure what you're talking about. The second link does include several links to Media Matters, but two of the three items also link directly to third-party reports debunking O'Reilly's fearmongering. One of those links goes directly to the school district's statement. The other links to a newspaper article explaining why it is untrue to claim the "War on Christmas" has stopped the Post Office from issuing new Christmas stamps. (Or, of course, you could verify that yourself by going the post office website.) Only one item doesn't include third-party verification, but if you follow the MM link you'll notice that it cites a third-party media report (from a Saginaw TV station, debunking O'Reilly's claims about Saginaw) that notes that O'Reilly's claims are "flat out not true."

These are not difficult facts to verify. I think it's reasonable to suggest that one reason that O'Reilly is comfortable making completely untrue statements is that his core audience doesn't seem to care. Does it not bother you that he throws these allegations out with no concern for their veracity? Do you think he'll retract his accusations now that it's obvious that they aren't true? I doubt it, personally.

Again, this was all off-topic, and I apologize. But I think a little fact-checking is always in order.
12.15.2005 12:23pm
Marcus1:
DEGOP,

The common thread in your arguments is an attempt to conflate atheism with other religions. This is simply not the case. Theoretically, there must be a position by which a person can simply reject religious beliefs. It must be possible to simply say, "All that religion stuff doesn't make sense." You can't simply whitewash over this position.

And indeed, this is exactly what atheists believe. Atheists, as I've said, look around at all the world's faith-based claims, and note that they are all contradictory. Then, rather than simply throwing our faith behind one of our own -- on some basis like "their people seem nicer" -- we instead conclude that the most likely explanation is that religion is a man-made construct. As has often been said, it is hardly a radical position. Religionists, by their position, already feel this way about 99.9% of the world's religions. Atheists simply acknowledge it to be true for one more.

You can try to paint this as a religion of its own, but the truth is that it is not. You can try to paint it as hypocritical in its own way, but it is not that either. If there is such a thing as religion, then there must be the lack thereof. That is all it means to be an atheist.

Picking one unsupported faith while rejecting another is indeed hypocritical. You were not able to refute this point. Refusing to take part in the game is not.
12.15.2005 12:33pm
DEGOP (mail):

DEGOP - Whoa, Nelly! I understand that you're upset about this, and so am I. But equating this with terrorism is just going to make it that much easier for people to not take us seriously. Let's stick to the facts, shall we? Anti-Christian sentiment in this country has grown in the last 20 years. Christians are witnessing having their traditions changed for the sake of not offending people. We need to stand up for our traditions (and can do so without infringing on others' traditions), before this disdain for Christianity turns into something ugly.


Come on, MaryC! These people want us to live in fear. They don't want us to be ourselves in public. You can't even have a cross in a park without getting sued over it! You can't sing Christmas carols in school because 2 childen's parents might get offended. Terrorism is rule by fear, and these liberals have the rest of America trembling in fear of boycotts and lawsuits.

Sure, they're not killing anyone yet. In that respect, they're not as bad as Al Qaeda. Yet. But I think we need to nip this in the bud now, or they'll be killing us in 20 years or so. If that makes me crazy, then call me crazy. I don't care, I have to call 'em like I see 'em.
12.15.2005 12:37pm
R. King:

Anti-Christian sentiment in this country has grown in the last 20 years. Christians are witnessing having their traditions changed for the sake of not offending people. We need to stand up for our traditions (and can do so without infringing on others' traditions), before this disdain for Christianity turns into something ugly.


I agree that society in general (rather than the voting population) has become less enamored with Protestantism; but I think there is a chicken-or-egg question that is quickly evolving into a chicken-and-egg problem.

The question, as I see it, is: "Where does the the enmity come from?"

If I were to jump into the situation right now, I might think that there is an increasing reaction to Angry Protestantism. But this (seeming) Angry Protestantism developed in tandom with Angry Secularism. Now, a lot of people feel that they have to "stand up", or they will be overrun by Angry People on the other side. As in weapons technology, there is a rising force of rhetoric on both sides which is designed to inflame as much political passion as possible, in order to overpower the other side's political might.

This is just ugly. Really, do we need it?

Does it matter if we call it a Christmas Tree? Does it matter if we wish others "Happy Holidays?" If everyone acts completely intrasingent in their ideology, we will allow a molehill to become a mountain between our communities. Completely unnecessary.

Forget tolerance. Living together peacefully only happens with humility.
12.15.2005 12:46pm
DEGOP (mail):

I'm not sure what you're talking about. The second link does include several links to Media Matters


Well, when I saw that it linked to Media Matters, I stopped reading. That's about it for me. I'm willing to keep an open mind about the facts, but you've got to come in from outer left field a little bit. Websites that link to sites run by pathological liars aren't reliable websites either, as far as I'm concerned. If you feel differently, then I'm afraid we're just going to have to respectfully disagree on this one. You think Bill O'Reilly is lying because David Brock tells you so, and I think David Brock is lying because David Brock tells me so. That's all I have to say about that. I'm sorry this has gone so far off-topic, but you're right, this does need to be addressed. I think more Americans need to be exposed to the truth, but unfortunately there's nothing I can do to help you. I'm truly sorry about that.
12.15.2005 12:46pm
Medis:
I also find the drumbeat of "Christian persecution" claims interesting. In particular, I wonder if this notion has appeal because of the nature of the religion in question, or rather something more basic about American politics.

Personally, I suspect the latter, if only on the ground that the movement to "defend" Christianity from persecution seems contiguous with things like the movement to "defend" marriage from gay people. In other words, the general idea that the (white/Christian/straight/male/traditional/etc.) majority is somehow being "terrorized" by the minority (variously liberals, atheists, gays, feminazis, etc.) seems to have become an important political argument.
12.15.2005 12:55pm
DEGOP (mail):

The common thread in your arguments is an attempt to conflate atheism with other religions. This is simply not the case. Theoretically, there must be a position by which a person can simply reject religious beliefs. It must be possible to simply say, "All that religion stuff doesn't make sense." You can't simply whitewash over this position.


But don't you understand that the lack of faith is, in itself, a faith? You have faith in the lack of deity; that's a religion in itself. If you don't believe me, why is one of the first things the Communists do in any country they usurp destroying religious edifices? What is this certainty that all religions are wrong, if not a religion?


Picking one unsupported faith while rejecting another is indeed hypocritical. You were not able to refute this point. Refusing to take part in the game is not.


If it is hypocritical, then you are every bit as guilty of it as the 99.9% of the world you so callously insult. I have more respect for atheists who at least admit that the absence of religion is itself a religion. You can't escape religion any more than you can dodge the question entirely.

Frankly, though, this discussion is pointless. If you're not honest enough to admit that your hatred of all religions is a religion in itself, there's no hope for convincing you otherwise. I just hope you see the light before the end comes. You seem like a very intelligent fellow. I will pray for you.
12.15.2005 12:59pm
MaryC (mail):

Personally, I suspect the latter, if only on the ground that the movement to "defend" Christianity from persecution seems contiguous with things like the movement to "defend" marriage from gay people. In other words, the general idea that the (white/Christian/straight/male/traditional/etc.) majority is somehow being "terrorized" by the minority (variously liberals, atheists, gays, feminazis, etc.) seems to have become an important political argument.


I think there's a difference, though. Gays are not asking straights to change the name of marriage, or to stop getting married in church, or to change any of our own traditions. In my view, they're being pretty reasonable. They just want to be able to get married too. It would be like if atheists wanted to celebrate Christmas, put up nativity scenes, have a Christmas tree, and celebrate the birth of Jesus. I would think that's great, as long as it's done with sincerity.

My point is that we Christians have an obligation to defend our faith from public erosion, and that we can do so while still respecting other faiths (or non-faiths) and celebrating this joyous time with them. For the love of pete, there aren't that many holidays being celebrated right now that they have to be blended together into a meaningless, homogenous lump in order to not offend anybody. They can all be mentioned by name, and all of their individual traditions can be preserved, celebrated, and yes...displayed publicly.
12.15.2005 1:11pm
Medis:
DEGOP,

I'd say it is true that Communism plays much the same role as a religion in the belief systems of certain people. But obviously many atheists are not Communists. Indeed, many atheists do not "hate" religion, even though they do not have religious beliefs, just as Christians do not necessarily "hate" those with incompatible religious beliefs.
12.15.2005 1:13pm
Colin:
MaryC, I think R. King has a point about rhetoric. You seem as shocked by DEGOP's perspective as I am, despite the fact that you both take the same policy position (in this limited context, at least). I'm embarassed to say that I was surprised to read your restraint, which tells me that I'm much too quick to assume that people I disagree with are irrational. I apologize.

Although I disagree with your preferred policies, I can see and understand your concern regarding Christmas. I don't think it's reasonable or justified, but I don't think it's crazy--I just disagree. But reasonable disagreement isn't what people expect to see. When the right talks about a "War on Christmas" and lets the radical and baseless rhetoric go unchecked, what the left hears, remembers, and assumes is typical are the frankly crazy statements like "they'll be killing us in 20 years or so."

DEGOP, there's no reason to think that O'Reilly is lying just because David Brock says so. You can check the facts for yourself.

- O'Reilly says that a school district was intimidated into changing the lyrics of Silent Night, but it's not true. The lyrics were part of the original text of a play about Christmas. You can verify that yourself by looking at the play, or reading local media reports.

- O'Reilly says that Saginaw, Michigan told people not to wear red or green because they're Christmas colors. It's not true (and such an insane claim that I can't believe anyone accepted it at face value). You can verify that yourself by reading the local TV station's report, which describes the red and green lights draping city hall.

- O'Reilly claims that the school district in Plano, Texas told students not to wear red and green. It's not true (and, again, ludicrous). You can verify that yourself by reading the school district's own statement.

- O'Reilly claims (or accepts a caller's claim) that the Post Office won't sell Christmas stamps because of the "War on Christmas." It's not true. You can verify that yourself by reading up on why the Post Office doesn't issue new stamps right before a price increase. ("Next year's printing will include a new Madonna and the price stamped over her left shoulder will explain why a new one wasn't printed this year: Rates are going up to 39 cents per letter Jan. 8.")

Doesn't your faith have something to say about false witness? Does it not bother you that he inflames his audience with completely baseless accusations?
12.15.2005 1:14pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Jon Rowe,

Race is the more apt analogy.

Actually it's no analogy at all. Language and religion are cultural phenomena, skin color is not.
12.15.2005 1:15pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Race isn't a cultural phenomena? What planet are you living on?

And your distinction is entirely arbitrary, in any event. We give no "rights" to language. But race and religion both receive fundamental rights under our constitutional and statutory legal system.

There is no constitutional problem with privileging the English language and expecting good citizens to learn it. There is, on the other hand, a grave problem with expecting citizens to be white or to be of any particular religious orthodoxy. See Art. VI of the US Constitution.
12.15.2005 1:25pm
Medis:
MaryC,

I'm honestly not sure what you have in mind. Perhaps over time you do feel additional social pressure not to be overtly religious while in public, or to otherwise defend or promote your religious beliefs and traditions(legally, of course, you can do so freely as long as it is on your own dime). Similarly, you may feel that other segments of society are less receptive to any religious messages that you may have. And so on.

But if true, such broad changes in our society cannot possibly be the result of anything the tiny percentage of self-described atheists in America are doing (and it is not like they are doing anything new). In other words, from an actual outsider's perspective, insofar as there is indeed any "movement" in this direction, it is clearly being driven by something within the religious community, not something that is outside of the religious community.

Of course, I guess that is where the "liberals" come in. But if "liberals" aren't a tiny percentage of the country as well, then they too must mostly be people who are not self-described atheists. So again, from an outsider's perspective, at most this is "liberal" religious people at "war" (in the social sense) with "conservative" religious people ... but it still not something that atheists themselves could possible be driving.
12.15.2005 1:32pm
MaryC (mail):
I don't think it is necessarily atheists who are driving it. I think that the people who are driving it are the same hyper-politically-correct bunch who keep changing the names of EVERYTHING on the off-chance that it may offend a minute percentage of the population. I was in Europe recently, and had a lovely conversation with a Dutch gentleman, who said that an odd thing he found about North America is that everybody is so afraid to say what they think because of political correctness, so they wind up saying nothing meaningful. I asked him if people just said what they thought in Holland, and he said that they don't deliberately try to provoke, but they will say what they think, and if someone disagrees, they discuss it, and if they can't agree, oh well, life moves on. I found that so incredibly refreshing, and wish that we could be like that here -- respecting each others viewpoints without feeling the need to turn our viewpoints into flavorless pablum in order to avoid offense.
12.15.2005 2:02pm
MaryC (mail):
Turn the words "viewpoints" into "traditions", and maybe you can see from where I'm coming.
12.15.2005 2:03pm
MaryC (mail):
Colin - no need to apologize, by the way. As in all public discourse, it tends to be those with the extreme viewpoints who are noted and listened to. It's a shame, really. There are some incredibly extreme people on both sides of any debate, and they tend to drown out those of us who want to have a reasoned, serious discussion.

And I know you don't think that my viewpoint is valid, but to tell you the honest truth, Christianity is a huge part of who I am. It's helped keep me from a lot of mistakes in my life, and has helped me make good choices, and (hopefully), be a good person. And right now, I'm starting to get a little scared. I've had people tell me to my face that my beliefs are ridiculous. I've heard a lot of commentary that implies that those of the Christian faith are stupid and ignorant hicks. We're being lumped into a little box, which makes it a lot easier for people to hate us, because people then don't want to know us as individuals. And once it becomes easier and easier to hate Christians (or to hate ANY group), then what's next? If it becomes easy to hate Christians, then some of us will probably start hiding our faith, wearing our crosses beneath our shirts, or taking them off altogether, just to avoid that kind of disdain. I don't want to have to do that. This country is wonderful because we are free to express ourselves, and I just want to make sure that my government (not the one I voted for, but anyway..) protects me, and discourages those who would erode the traditions and beauty of ANY faith being practiced in America today.
12.15.2005 2:19pm
Medis:
MaryC,

Of course, there are some other important components to that story about Holland besides the honesty, including the trying not to provoke people, the reacting to disagreements with the desire to have a discussion, and the tolerance of disagreement. In other words, open discussions work best when people will voluntarily be respectful toward each other.

Unfortunately, few prominent people in our society truly seem interested in promoting civility, rational discourse, and tolerance. And I suspect that is because our society tends to reward those who promote division, derision, and intolerance with money, fame, and power.

I'm not sure why that is the case, but I don't think it is because Americans are naturally less civil and tolerant than other people. Instead, I suspect it is mostly because we are such a large country with such a diverse people that the "marketplace of ideas" becomes unusually fragmented. So, public figures can be enormously successful in America by appealing only to one fragment of our society, even if by doing so they offend the people in the other fragments of our society, because each of the many fragments of our society is still incredibly large, and thus a viable source of money, fame, and power.

Also unfortunately, I think a norm like "political correctness" is a rational response to this state of affairs. Because the different fragments of our society have not been encouraged by their public figures to be civil and tolerant (just the opposite in too many cases), when people from one fragment encounter people from other fragments, they tend to "clash" if they are being "honest" about their views (ie, those "honest" views frequently include a lot of not-so-nice things to say about others). So, for the sake of avoiding conflict, we avoid stating what we "really" believe when in public, because the things we have been encouraged to "really" believe are things which provoke conflict.

Oh well. These problems associated with our fragmented and too-often-uncivil society seem largely out of anyone's control. In other words, I could join the chorus of those calling for more peace, love, and understanding, but I doubt it will have much effect.
12.15.2005 2:35pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):

Race isn't a cultural phenomena?

No, of course not. It may play a role in influencing some cultural phenomena, however.



There is, on the other hand, a grave problem with expecting citizens to be white or to be of any particular religious orthodoxy.

Since no one suggested or implied otherwise, this is a complete non sequitur.


There is no constitutional problem with privileging the English language and expecting good citizens to learn it.

Some on the left, who tend to have the knee-jerk reaction of injecting race into every issue, see any official preference for English as racist or bigoted in some way. They never seem to explain how.

In any event, there is no constitutional problem with a local community displaying a nativity scene in a public park either, as the radicals at the ACLU and like-minded groups contend. Christmas is a uniquely prominent cultural event in America. The government is not required to ignore this reality, or to purge the religious aspects of the holiday.
12.15.2005 4:20pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
NOTICE TO COMMENTERS:

I originally enabled comments for 3 days, which expires Thursday evening. There is no way to extend this.

Have (civil) fun 'til then.

Jim Lindgren
12.15.2005 4:38pm
Porkchop (mail):

But don't you understand that the lack of faith is, in itself, a faith? You have faith in the lack of deity; that's a religion in itself. If you don't believe me, why is one of the first things the Communists do in any country they usurp destroying religious edifices? What is this certainty that all religions are wrong, if not a religion?

DEGOP,

You just don't get it. Lack of religion is not a religion -- it's a choice not to have a religion. Period. You don't pray to a "non-God," "quasi-God," "meta-God," or "anti-God," you just don't pray to anything>. It's not a hard concept -- apparently you think that everyone has to worship "something," but you are wrong. Some of us just don't care, because we have made a decision that this is not worth thinking about any further. The only reason there is even a word for this is that there are a whole bunch of people who think we should care and they need a word to describe us, so they came up with the word, "atheist." Really, I don't run around grabbing religious people by the arm and trying to convert them to the "religion of atheism." I am absolutely indifferent to how you spend your time, energy, and money as long as you don't try to impose your beliefs on me or try to harm me -- that is, I think, the very definition of a libertarian. The main thing that "atheists" want is to be left alone; some also want to avoid being required to fund with their tax dollars religious beliefs that they don't share. Those two things are what drives most of the litigation that you are so concerned about. Government involvement in religious matters is inherently coercive. That's why people (and not just atheists) object to school-sponsored prayer. If you want to utter something for yourself before a really tough test, that's your business -- just don't ask the teacher to lead it in front of the whole class.

As far as Communism's historical antipathy to religion, you are confusing cause and effect. New communist governments simply recognized that religious organizations constituted alternative foci for individual loyalty so instead of competing for loyalty on an intellectual basis, they simply attempted to destroy the competition or they brought them under very strict control. The fact that they utilized some similar motivational elements of pageantry and doctrine to "inspire" devotion to the socialist state did not make socialism a religion (which by most definitions requires reference to some kind of deity). There were no sacrifices to Marx, Lenin, Engels, Stalin, or Mao. For some, that dedication may have provided a substitute for religion, but that doesn't make it a religion.

After reading all of your posts, I can only conclude that you are paranoid (unfortunately, paranoids are constitutionally incapable of self-diagnosis); you see danger to yourself and your beliefs in everything around you. Those dangers, looked at objectively, don't exist -- no one is telling you that you can't hold whatever beliefs you desire. The only thing that some might desire is that you reciprocate and recognize that the strength of your personal beliefs is largely irrelevant to whether I want to (a) share them, (b) listen to them, or (c) accept your apparent belief that they are self-evidently true. What you seem to be arguing, though, is that your right to preach to others trumps their right to decide that they don't want to listen to you. I wonder if this seeming need to have your beliefs validated by others' acceptance of what you believe indicates that you really don't hold them as strongly as you indicate.

Have a Christmas tree and a very merry Christmas and a few additional happy holidays. Go to church on Christmas Eve and Day and any other time you want to. Exchange presents, or not, with whomever you choose. Go carolling in the public right of way (not some old grouch's yard) -- but don't block traffic. Don't be surprised if, when you come to my door, I listen and enjoy the music, and still don't go to your church or adopt your beliefs.

Now, I have to go decorate a Christmas tree (a holdover from my pagan ancestors) and wrap some gifts for all the little atheists in the house.

By the way, do you realize that in Scandinavian countries, the customary Christmas greeting translates as "Happy Yule" and does not mention Christ or Christmas at all? Does that mean that paganism still prevails in Northern Europe? Or does it mean that they are simply less inclined to be oversensitive than some Americans?
12.15.2005 5:08pm
Porkchop (mail):
And I know you don't think that my viewpoint is valid, but to tell you the honest truth, Christianity is a huge part of who I am. It's helped keep me from a lot of mistakes in my life, and has helped me make good choices, and (hopefully), be a good person. And right now, I'm starting to get a little scared. I've had people tell me to my face that my beliefs are ridiculous. I've heard a lot of commentary that implies that those of the Christian faith are stupid and ignorant hicks. We're being lumped into a little box, which makes it a lot easier for people to hate us, because people then don't want to know us as individuals. And once it becomes easier and easier to hate Christians (or to hate ANY group), then what's next? If it becomes easy to hate Christians, then some of us will probably start hiding our faith, wearing our crosses beneath our shirts, or taking them off altogether, just to avoid that kind of disdain. I don't want to have to do that. This country is wonderful because we are free to express ourselves, and I just want to make sure that my government (not the one I voted for, but anyway..) protects me, and discourages those who would erode the traditions and beauty of ANY faith being practiced in America today.

MaryC --

Really, I don't hate you just because I don't accept your beliefs. I would never tell you what I think of your beliefs unless you asked me. If you asked me, I would give them to you in unvarnished form, which, I suspect, you might find offensive. So, if you don't want to hear that someone finds your beliefs ridiculous, then don't invite comment on them. If someone gives you those kind of comments unsolicited, tell him or her just how rude that is, and then move on. If someone tells you that in the course of your proselytizing them, then just accept it, because it is their right to tell you that they think it is a load of bunk, and then move on.

In terms of "hating Christians," I don't think there is really much of that going on. On the other hand, some of those who purport to be speaking on behalf of "Christians" are utter horses' asses, and it is not surprising that there are those who assume that many Christians actually believe some of the drivel that comes from these people. I know a lot of fundamentalist Christians, and more of them are quiet, polite believers and doers of good works, like Jimmy Carter, as opposed to self-righteous, loud-mouthed, mney-grubbing hatemongers, like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. But the loud ones always get the most attention (and the most money). In any event, in the early church, it was considered noble and good to suffer for the faith -- what happened to that?

Merry Christmas.
12.15.2005 5:22pm
MaryC (mail):
Just for the record, I never proselytize. If I did, I would fully expect to be told off. Sometimes, my faith comes up in conversation. I don't deliberately bring it up, but nor do I go of my way to hide it. I have, however, noticed something interesting. When I wear a cross, people tend to avoid saying anything racy or off-color, but also act ruder in other ways, like cutting in front of me in line. It's as though they think that because I'm a Christian, I wont' get a dirty joke or tell them to get their line-butting asses to the back of the line. Funny, that.
12.15.2005 6:18pm
Colin:
NOTICE TO JIM LINDGREN,

Thanks for the notification. It has been fun. Is there any way for you to determine which VC comment has provoked the most/longest discussion? It would be very interesting to see a top five or ten list.
12.15.2005 6:20pm
Marcus1:
DEGOP,


But don't you understand that the lack of faith is, in itself, a faith? You have faith in the lack of deity; that's a religion in itself.

I have more respect for atheists who at least admit that the absence of religion is itself a religion. You can't escape religion any more than you can dodge the question entirely.

Does it require "faith" not to believe in Odin or Zeus? Does it require "faith" not to believe in Santa Claus? Even if you're referring to the question of where we came from, faith is still not necessary. Do you need "faith" not to believe in the "big bang"? Do you need "faith" not to believe we were placed here by aliens? Do you need "faith" to think the theory of evolution doesn't make any sense?

Faith should not be necessary for taking any of these positions, and I doubt that you feel that you have any such faiths. So why do you feel that I need faith not to believe in god?

I don't have any such faith. I simply believe, for a lot of different reasons, that the chances that there is an omnipotent being ruling over this world are excedingly slim. As I said, all I have to do is look around at the world's different conflicting religions, and it becomes apparent that religions are invented by people, not inspired by gods. It's so patently obvious that it's hard to even explain when someone denies it. All I can say is that you see it yourself when you look at any religion other than your own.

Your response was that even atheism is based on a faith of its own. But as I have shown, that is simply not true. It IS possible to reject religious theories, just like it is possible to reject theories of any other kind. As far as I'm concerned, when somebody tells me they have a theory that is supported only by faith, being skeptical of that theory is really the only rational option.

Of course, I don't expect to convince you that there isn't a god. People over the age of 21 or so don't seem very keen on rethinking this issue. I simply notice that you are particularly beligerent toward people who disagree with your religious views. You seem particularly unwilling to see things from other people's perspective. I would hope that you could recognize that even if you value your faith, there are good and reasonble reasons why people disagree with you.

In any case, I think you'd be surprised how much sense the world starts to make when you start looking for natural explanations rather than thinking god is behind everything.
12.15.2005 7:27pm