The Watering Hole, Monday, December 28th, 2015: No Religious Test?

I ran across this opinion piece at christianpost.com [and for more religious wackiness, check out some of the stories on their home page] and felt it was a perfect example of the ridiculousness of the “Christian Nation” argument. In it, Reverend Mark H. Creech cherry-picks references from some version of the bible, from early American historical documents, and from the Star-Spangled Banner.

Recently, WTVD News ABC 11 for Raleigh-Durham reported that the mayor of Franklin, North Carolina, Bob Scott has a long tenure of public service. He was in the Army as a public affairs officer. He flew in the Civil Air Patrol. He spent ten years on the Franklin Board of Alderman.

Each time he was sworn into office he placed his left hand on the Bible to take his oath. But this year, which will make his second term as Franklin’s mayor, he decided to do something different. He decided he wouldn’t use the Bible, but instead swear upon a copy of the Constitution.

According to WTVD, Scott said that he had been thinking about the matter for a long time.

“I realized we are taking an oath to defend the Constitution, pure and simple, and those are the laws of the land. And If I’m gonna give an oath, that’s what I’m giving an oath to. It had nothing to do with religion — for or against — just swearing to protect and defend the Constitution,” said Scott.

Regarding the office of any public official, Scott also said, “We do not represent any religion, what we represent are the laws of the land. As far as I am concerned, there is no place in government for religion. I’m a secularist in that respect. I just don’t think there’s a place for any kind of religious doctrine in government because we represent everybody.”

The woeful ignorance of Scott’s view is breathtaking. You can no more separate our nation’s form of government from the Christian religion than you can separate smoke from fire or water from ice.

Granted, at the start of our fledgling republic, there was a severing of the politico-ecclesiastical ties that had long existed between the church and state. But the separation of the two did not mean the severance of our way of government from God, or from its basis — the Christian religion. As John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States stated, the American Revolution connected in “one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government and the principles of Christianity.”

This fact is voluminously evident in such matters as the biblical worldview that shaped the resistance of the colonists to King George’s tyranny, the Declaration of Independence’s references to “Nature’s God,” the “Creator,” the “Supreme Judge of the world” and its signers acknowledgement of “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” This is not to mention the repeated presidential and congressional calls for prayer and days of fasting in periods of great national challenges throughout American history.  [HUH?]

Scott may claim that there is “no place in government for religion,” but even something as simple as the concluding words of our National Anthem summarize the United States was birthed out of a religious commitment — out of a commitment to God.

“Blessed with victory and peace, May this heaven rescued land, Praise the Power that hath made And preserved us a nation!

“Then conquer we must, When our cause is just; And this be our motto, ‘In God is our trust!’**

“And the star-spangled banner in, Triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free, And the home of the brave.

Scott may have chosen to take his oath on the Constitution, but neither can he remove that great document from its Christian influences. Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles, in their book, Liberating the Nations, point out that James Madison, who has justly been referred to as the “Father” of the US Constitution, was a tremendous Christian statesman that delineated the biblical responsibilities of government in its preamble:

To establish justice — the goal of government as taught in Romans 13 and I Peter 2:14 is to punish evildoers and to protect those who do right.

To ensure domestic tranquility — a phrase that comes from the focus of prayer for government, which instructs us to pray “in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

To provide for the common defense — “The protection of innocent human life is at the base of not only capital punishment (Gen. 9:6) but also in the provision of an army for protection from external threats.”

To promote the general welfare — Romans 13:4 says that civil rulers are servants of God “to you for good.”

To secure the blessings of Liberty — Liberty is a gift from our Creator, not simply a privilege granted by the government. The government should secure the God-given rights of every man to his life, liberty, and property.

No wonder Noah Webster said, “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and his apostles … to this we owe our free constitutions of government.”

Moreover, these are some of the same reasons George Washington in his farewell address warned:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars …The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for prosperity, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths…? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion …Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

Mayor Scott certainly has the right to reject putting his hand on the Bible when taking his oath of office, but his choice sends a dangerous message that places every citizen at risk. His actions declare the erroneous notion that our rights come from the state — not God.”

While there’s a lot here that should be picked apart, I’ll leave most of that to you, my readers. I’m just going to throw out a few comments regarding certain parts.

First: Who the hell sings the entire National Anthem?

Second: Noah Webster was wrong: the democratic principles of the Greeks, not “the religion of Christ and his apostles”, introduced civil liberty and “our free constitutions of government.”

Third: Mayor Scott’s decision to swear his oath of office on the Constitution is not a danger to any citizen, it is a promise to ALL American citizens to uphold our rights as granted by the Constitution – NOT by the Reverend’s, or anyone else’s, god. No one’s god can take away my rights as a U.S. citizen.

Fourth: Obviously I disagree with George Washington’s notion that morality is dependent upon religion; however, I must point out that Reverend Creech left out an important line that followed the Washington quote he referenced:

“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

If only George Washington could have foreseen the bastardization that is Liberty University.

**According to www.treasury.gov, we can blame adding the motto “In God We Trust” to U.S. coinage (not on paper currency) on Salmon P. Chase, who apparently was totally ignorant of the First Amendment. An excerpt:

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, and read:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters…

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

So, America has “Divine protection”? Coulda fooled me.

 

UPDATE:  Being ever so suspicious of religious quotes attributed to our Founders (or their children), Wayne checked and found out the John Quincy Adams quote above is a fake quote.  The words were written by John Wingate Thornton and are believed to be Thornton’s summary of a concept he attributed to John Quincy Adams.  Whether they represent Adams’ views or not, they are not his words, they are Thornton’s.

 

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

The Watering Hole, Tuesday November 17, 2015.

I can’t bring myself to post about the environment or food politics.

The events in France just overwhelm. Can’t think of one fundamentalist religion that has ever done the world one bit of good, ever. It’s the 21st Century. You would think people would be beyond this now. It has been quite evident for some time that people can act morally and humanistic-ally without religion. I just don’t see the draw.

Open thread

The Watering Hole; Friday August 28 2015; “Can the Dumb Define the Divine?”

. . . I infer from the Odors borne –
Of its Voice — to affirm — when the Wind is within —
Can the Dumb — define the Divine?
The Definition of Melody — is —
That Definition is none —
Emily Dickinson

Interesting question, that one. Republicans everywhere seem to think they can not only DEFINE divinity, but that they can interpret each and every current event through the “eyes” of their particular brand of “the Divine.”. Here’s but one example of what happens when a near maniacal ego grapples with concepts that lie far beyond its ken. Republican presidential candidate hopeful Ted Cruz has said:

“I’m a Christian and Scripture commands Christians to love everybody.”

“What we’re seeing now is this liberal fascism and intolerance where their object is to persecute, to punish, to fine any Bible-following Christian or believer that believes in the biblical definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. And that is profoundly inconsistent with who we are as Americans. . . .”

“There are some activists who, frankly, manifest a hatred and intolerance for Christians, who are persecuting Christians. That is unfortunate. As I said, I think we should love everybody. . . .”

[religious liberty was] “the foundational right upon which this nation was built, and I am proud to stand with these heroes gathered tonight to defend religious liberty.”

In other words: liberal fascism (itself the oxymoronic equivalent of, say, “gentle cruelty”) is the (presumed) unholy or perhaps Satanic undercurrent that has forced “Christians” to hate, fear, and disrespect LGBT people because it is liberal fascism that has mandated commercial “Christian” florists and cake-makers be disallowed from refusing to make cakes or sell flowers to those who would celebrate or (horror of horrors) participate in, say, a same sex marriage. Because, apparently, gay people are deserving of hatred and intolerance because God put a verse in the bible pointing out that He, too, hates and is intolerant of the whole concept of those aberrant people (whom He created in the first place). Cruz believes, I’m sure, that he CAN, indeed, “define the Divine.”

Weird. On the one hand, according to Cruz, the bible commands Christians to love everybody; on the other hand, he also refers to hatred and intolerance as a product of those liberal fascists who see the world through a different lens. What he fails to notice is that the ‘right’ to practice hatred and intolerance is not only allowed, but sometimes DEMANDED by his concept of religious liberty which he maintains is under assault by (non-existent and oxymoronic) liberal fascism. Divinity not only allows, it also so demands — at least according to definers of Divinity such as Ted Cruz — the practice of hatred and intolerance as a ‘right’ granted by religious liberty.

Confusing.

So. OK. Fine. Yes. We have just been served — by Presidential candidate Ted Cruz — a full helping of what is fast becoming known as REPUBLICAN STUPIDITY!! (See also Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, somebody named Kasich, and whomever else I might have forgotten about already).

Seriously folks. When Emily Dickinson asked “Can the Dumb define the Divine”? I’m betting she was perfectly aware that the answer is clearly NO. And even though she never really said as much, my guess is that to her, it was not all that tricky for anyone with a functioning mind to define the Dumb. And it still is NOT tricky, given that today all one really has to do is look and see if there’s an “R” behind the name. If there is, the answer is a definite Yup. Dumb. Defined.

Anyway, in an effort to assuage my, shall we say, “disappointment” (?) in re the mental qualities of the Republican Clown Car occupants, I spent some time wandering through some of my old photo files on a search for evidential photographs of the mentally superior critters one runs across constantly while visiting “out there.” I found several, each and every one of which portrays exponential levels of intellectual superiority to Republicans everywhere. I only hope I’m not insulting the intellectually superior critters by assigning physical resemblance comparisons to several of the Republican Presidential (ouch!) candidate hopefuls! Nevertheless, let the DIVINE — herein and now — DEFINE the DUMB. At least a handful of them.

Trump

                                                                      Trump?

Carson

                                                                 Carson?

Fiorina? (look closely)

                                                  Fiorina? (look closely)

Jeb!

                                                                          Jeb!

Walker

                                                                        Walker?

Cruz, aka the mummified frog

                       Ted Cruz, aka the mummified frog. Definitely. Q.E.D.

And speaking of mummified frogs, here’s the latest from Ted’s papa, Rafael Cruz:

‘The Devil Overplayed His Hand’ With SCOTUS Gay Marriage Decision

So there it is again. One more attempt by a Wingnut to define the Divine. My answer, therefore, to Ms Dickinson’s burning question “Can the Dumb define the Divine?” is a simple one: OF COURSE NOT!!! Duh!

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity;
and I’m not sure about the universe.”
Albert Einstein

Q.E.D.

OPEN THREAD