THE WALL OF SEPARATION
If you listen to all our politicians, this is supposed to be a time of bi-partisanship -- a time when Republicans and Democrats come together, when liberals reach out to conservatives, and vice verse. Allow me to do my part in ushering in a new era. Below, I shall argue for a position that is generally considered to be “conservative,” even though I am a liberal. I encourage any of you who comment on my posts to do the same: pick an issue in which you agree with people whose political views/values are typically quite different from your own.
Many people who affirm the separation of church and state do so as a way to combat the power of religion. But historically, in the
Does that mean that I want the public sphere to establish one sectarian approach to religion above others? Hardly. In a pluralistic society, that doesn’t sound religious at all. It sounds irreligious – as in, some of us feel that we have a monopoly on ultimate truths and everyone else should shut up and listen to us. Like I said, irreligious.
Moreover, the idea of a government promoting one system of worship over others isn’t my only concern when it comes to determining the proper relationship between religion and government. I’m also concerned that the government could promote religions that worship a traditional God-concept over those that wish to throw the idea of the divine into the scrapheap. It’s not the place of the government to dictate to people how they should think of God. In fact, I would go further to say that it’s not the place of the government to take sides on the whole question of God. Secular humanists can be even more religious, in the true sense of that word, than “devout” Christians, Jews or Muslims. Secular humanists tend not to advocate killing innocent people in the name of populating the Promised Land, carrying out a Crusade, or conducting a jihad. Moreover, secular humanists tend not to absolve themselves of responsibility for the healing of their planet. Since there exists no God in their heavens, they must take on the sacred duty of public service that many “devout” people assign to
In the name of religion – not sectarianism, but spirituality – I find the above priorities offensive. Spirituality is every bit as important as any of the above disciplines. In fact, it’s arguably as important as all the other disciplines combined. So why don’t we pay it any mind when we are deciding how to educate our children? Some are concerned about the danger of the slippery slope: once we require instruction in comparative religions, won’t we open the door to teachers taking the opportunity to preach incessantly about the wisdom of their chosen religion and bad mouth any alternative faiths? How, for example, can we trust a traditional Christian teacher to speak fairly about the Jewish assertion that God never took human form? Do we want our Jewish children to sit in a classroom in
Some might say that two daily minutes of silence would be merely a waste of school time. But to me, that attitude shows a hostility to religion that un-becomes a free society. The kids spend 45 minutes a day on science. They can’t spend at least two on religion? Some kids would actually take the time to pray – and yes, the official minutes of silence are a way to remind them that their prayer is something that we in society respect. But to those who don’t pray, they are also being given an opportunity to relax and collect their thoughts. Lord knows that we should respect the need for that as well.
Sorry, but I have trouble appreciating the other side of this issue. And spare me the slippery slope argument that moments of silence will turn into opportunities to make atheists feel out of place. I was an atheist as a child, and I would have felt fine with the notion of meditating or relaxing while my religious friends prayed … at least if they prayed silently and an introductory statement was made that a “prayer” is not necessary. Nobody’s talking about minutes of indoctrination; I’m talking about minutes of silence.
So let’s say that a law was passed mandating two minutes of silence per class day. How might I spend such minutes? Well, in prayer, hopefully. But I tend to take a dim view of traditional, petitional prayers. (“Dear God … do this for me, do that for me, etc.) Accordingly, in my next post, I’ll suggest a group – other than ourselves – that could use our love and sympathy. This group contains rich people, poor people, sick people, healthy people … they run the gamut in all respects except one: their age.