I only read the op-ed section of my hometown paper when I'm bored or feel like insulting my intelligence. It's always filled with the paranoid, ill-informed rantings of the paranoid, ill-informed hicks who populate the tri-state area around my confused little town. I just happened to peruse this particular section today, and was greated by an article titled "Don't Imitate the Europeans." The author took issue with a previous op-ed written from the standpoint of a secularist (yeah, I'm not the only one in Appalachia) and conveniently, for my mocking pleasure, numbered her points.
The article kicks off thusly:
"1. That government’s “task” is to provide that “individual believers holding diverse convictions may challenge one another without ... interference.” Untrue. The First Amendment provides that government will not prefer one religion over another; and it forbids one’s harassment of another."
OK, the first part of your rebuttal is true and the second part is not. It's not true because you're using a red herring. What the first author wrote was that we may challenge each other's religions without interference, which is absolutely legal and a right recognized in any free society. We're discouraged from harassing people about it and it's illegal to discriminate others on the basis of their religion or lack of religion. Maybe you should remember that last part.
2. "That '(t)he greater the distance between church and state ... , the greater our religious liberty.' False. Complete neutrality, or absence of religious involvement in government affairs and vice versa, is termed “laicite.” It is the political system of secularism, which suppresses expression of religious belief in public and oppresses those who do it. By definition, religious freedom is “the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance” (source: Wikipedia)."
False false. You make the typical Republican logical fallacy of characterizing secularism as an organized political movement as opposed to a philosophy. The First Amendment protects against what you're freaking out about and banning religious practices or customs could never legally happen here, provided the First Amendment can survive the last 14 days of the Bush presidency.
"A leading secular state is France, where in 2004, religious symbols were banned in public schools. President Nicolas Sarkozy criticizes this type of “negative laicite;” and he intends to develop a “positive laicite,” which, as noted at Wikipedia, “recognizes the contribution of faith to French culture, history and society, allows for faith in the public discourse and for government subsidies for faith-based groups.” As France strives to progress beyond its stymieing century-old secular politics, the United States would be unwise to regress to embrace them."
I did LOL a little when I first read this. I have to respectfully disagree that increased secularism would be a step backwards for the U.S. I agree that the government shouldn't concern itself with banning religious symbols and clothing (which was the main point of the French law; it banned niquabs and yarmulkes in schools). In fact, government shouldn't deal in religion at all! Wow! Thank you for making my point for me! And this is the second time you've cited Wikipedia. Someone should have told you that's not a reputable source and if this were a college paper, you'd ge a D.
"French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, in his 1835 work Democracy in America, finds the synergy of faith and politics that he experiences here remarkable; and he concludes that religion in society is necessary to temper government’s propensities to seize authority (or to impose priority) over peoples’ expression of their convictions, and to inhibit peoples’ tendencies to surrender it."
I don't recall this particular summation in Democracy in America, though it's been four years since I read it and the book is 676 pages long. It's likely that deTocqueville was being ironic. He was also found our propensity to sue remarkable, which is impressive when you consider he wrote DIA in 1835. Not to mention American history is littered with instances when the government "seized authority over peoples' expression of their convictions." Where have you been the past eight years? Oh right. You're a Republican. So seizing authority over secularists'/peaceniks'/dissenters'/brown people's expression of their convictions is what the government is supposed to do. As long as your rights aren't being impeded, there's no problem.
"French philosopher Jacques Maritain, a drafter of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is quoted at Wikipedia praising the U.S. model of religious freedom in the mid-20th century as superior because it had both 'sharp distinction and actual cooperation' between church and state. He called it 'an historical treasure.' He begged: 'Please to God that you keep it carefully, and do not let your concept of separation veer round to the European one.'"
The mid-20th Century. The mid-20th Century. Hmm...I'm trying to recollect what might have just occured around that time period in Europe that may have contributed to this quote but, damn, my lackluster American education is failing me. I think it was something to do with Jews and golden stars and gas chambers but I'm not sure. Maybe I should check Wikipedia.
It always insults me when religious people somehow try to twist the First Amendment or the writings of the Founding Fathers to support this notion that we're a Christian country (and just an FYI, The Federalist Papers pushing for the ratification of the Constitution were first published as a series of letters to the editors. A series of op-eds started this country!). The first European colonists may have been nutbag Christian fundamentalists but we were not established as a haven for this kind of warped world view. We're a beacon of religious freedom, which includes freedom from religion for millions of us rationalists. Israel is what happens when you "found" a country based on only one religion (and for only one religion).
To quote the late, great Henry David Thoreau, "The government is best which governs the least." So you can worship your invisible space god and I can worship my Richard Dawkins. Live and let live.
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