Your Preacher is Lying to You About the Wall of Separation

You’ve probably heard of Jefferson’s letter where he speaks of a wall of separation between church and state. You probably know that these words are not in the constitution of the United States or its amendments or in any other official document. That is true. You may not even concern yourselves over much with the fact that these words from the author of the first amendment were used by the supreme court until the McCarthyism of the 1950s as evidence of the intent of the first amendment and thus as an aid in interpreting it. However, here is the great lie, a huge and deliberate sin of omission of which you may be unaware.

Jefferson was reassuring Christians that they would be protected from other Christians and allowed to worship in their own way.

The letter was written by the then-president Thomas Jefferson, a non-Christian himself, to reassure the Danbury Baptists, devout Christians, that they would always be allowed to practice their religion free from state interference.

Funny, isn’t it? We’ve all heard the history that many of the Christians who came over were fleeing religious persecution and looking for a new land. Yet, we ignore the fact that these Christians were fleeing religious persecution from Christian nations. Most of Europe had official state religions. The Anglican church in England, the Catholic church in both France and Italy, etc.

So, as today’s Christians fight the teaching of science in schools, fight to put up ten commandments displays in courtrooms and post offices, fight to keep the repressive McCarthy era words “In God We Trust” on our money and “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, it is almost comical to realize that the ancestors of these Christians fought tooth and nail against religion in government. Or, it would be comical if it weren’t so damn scary.

So, as Christians, consider exactly what set of beliefs you find important. Do you find it important to participate in the rights of communion? Or, do you have an aversion to the literal cannibalism that comes from the literal transubstantiation of the wafer into the body of Christ? Do you feel it is important to worship at altars with statues of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and assorted saints? Or, do you consider worshiping at altars to be a form of idol worship or worship of graven images? Do you like church to be a solemn quiet ritual or do you prefer to worship over the television and support the likes of Meth and Man Ass Ted Haggard?

And, let’s not forget, this last view of Christianity in the evangelical mega church is far from a small and inconsequential group. The National Association of Evangelicals numbers their congregation at around 30 million people. Is this the Christianity you want in American politics? Perhaps yes. Perhaps this is your flavor of Christianity. But, even at 30 million people, that’s still a minority of the American population. So, which flavor of Christianity are we going to have in government?

This is the fear that the Danbury Baptists held and about which Jefferson was reassuring them.

They wanted to worship in their way. Whatever flavor of Christian you are reading this and wanting Christianity in government, you probably want to be allowed to worship in your particular way as well. Perhaps you like the ostentatious Catholic church with its world dominance hierarchy and pope to guide the way. Perhaps you merely like to sit quietly and reflect on Christ in your home. Perhaps you like a small and austere church. Perhaps you even believe that the cross as the implement of Christs death should not be used as a symbol of his religion. (The Mormons really do have that one right, in my opinion as a non-theist.) Perhaps you think all of the money going to buy limos for the preachers of mega churches is really doing God’s work. Perhaps you find it offensive and degrading to the millions who donate what little they have to make these preachers wealthier than one should ever be for doing God’s work.

It doesn’t matter where you fall on this spectrum of belief known generically as Christianity. If you want to worship as you do now, you must support the separation of church and state with all of your might, just as the founders wanting religious freedom did. And, if you are not Christian and are in the United States, you have even more incentive to fight for separation of church and state.

For those of us who are non-theists, we want what freedom we can get during our brief stay on this planet. But, for those of you who believe in an afterlife and believe you know the one true path to get to your sky cake, this is every bit as important as for us non-theists.

In fact, perhaps it is even more important to have your religious freedom. You believe your immortal soul is at stake!! You don’t want sky pie, sky cookies, or sky baklava by mistake. You want your sky cake! If you let religion into government, who knows? You might even end up with sky deep fried red bean ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce. (Mmm wait a minute. I want some of that!) Then where would you be?

So, I say to you that if you have been led by today’s religious and political leaders to believe that religion in government is a good thing, you really should think again. Use the brain you believe your God endowed you with. You know a lie when you hear one. It’s time to admit this lie is one and is extremely serious in its implications and its potential effects on your personal life and even the afterlife in which you believe and I do not.

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14 Responses to Your Preacher is Lying to You About the Wall of Separation

  1. Patrick says:

    Scott,

    If I read you right. Your thesis is that those people who would like to see the 10 commandments remain in court room are really seaking to force their particular brand of Christianity (if they happen to be Christian) on the rest of the population.

    Don’t you think it’s possible that concerned citizens of all (and no) faiths want to be certain that your country remember it’s legal heritage which is built on centuries of legal jurisprudence from Western Europe that has its origin in Christianity? If your legal system breaks with its foundational principles it will be lost and listless. Everyone concerned about sound legal reasoning should support the display of the Ten Commandments in government buildings.

    I also enjoyed the ‘Sky Cake’ video. What do you make of his thesis? Specifically that “if we didn’t have religion we wouldn’t be here by now . . . there’d be no civilization”

    • Regarding the influence of Christianity on the United States, it was virtually nil. Christianity, like Judaism before it, has a long tradition of supporting kingdoms and no history of supporting democracy.

      From David to Saul to Salomon to, allegedly through direct lineage, Y’shua ben Yosef (Jesus), to the Holy Roman Emporers and even, one might argue, to today’s Pope, bishops, cardinals and the like who function as King, lords, dukes, etc.

      No. If you are looking for religious roots of democracy, you’re barking up the wrong gods. It was Zeus and his lesser deities who influenced democracy, not Jesus and his lesser deities.*

      * We can have a side discussion on why Christianity, especially Catholicism, and even Judaism are not monotheistic religions if you like, but it’s not really germane to this point.

    • Adrian says:

      Simple refutation:
      Taking aspects of a concept does not necessarily mean that you agree with said concept.
      Nice try.
      Full refutation: Scott’s reply.

  2. Patrick,

    Um… I don’t think you really got the point. First, our society, at least in the U.S. not sure about Canada, was founded on secular beliefs not religious ones.

    My thesis is that Christians have as much to fear from a breach in the wall of separation between church and state as non-theists, possibly more if you’re correct about there being an afterlife, a point I’m not willing to concede.

    People who want the 10 commandments in courthouses are trying to steamroll over and rewrite history, not commemorate it. Our society is most definitely NOT founded on Christianity or any other religious principles. Ditto for western Europe.

    What you fail to understand is that you are not in the majority. Your own religion will be one of the many steamrolled over. You will no longer be allowed to worship your graven images. You will no longer be allowed to engage in cannibalism. You will no longer be allowed to worship in ostentatious churches. Your religion is on the decline. You stand to lose as much as I do.

    Since you have seriously struggled with exactly how you wish to worship, you should be as deeply concerned as the Danbury Baptists were.

    You think all Christianity is the same? Then why did you wrestle with exactly which flavor of Christianity to believe in? Clearly you do not think all are the same or you wouldn’t really care whether you went to an austere Lutheran church or an ostentatious, graven image filled, Catholic church.

    Glad you enjoyed the sky cake.

    Now, go confess your hubris and your lies about the history of the United States and attempts to rewrite history to your priest, while you’re still legally allowed to worship in that particularly psychotic way.

    Oh, did I mention that I can be a bit more obnoxious and condescending when I’m not a guest on your site?

    Lastly, you have never answered:

    What gives you the right to dictate your religion on others?

  3. Just to be abundantly clear, the real point of this post is to say that Christians have every bit as much interest in maintaining separation of church and state as anyone else, more if they are correct about the afterlife. That is why the Danbury Baptists were concerned. That is why Jefferson reassured them about the wall of separation between church and state.

  4. Mr. Fusion says:

    Um… I don’t think you really got the point. First, our society, at least in the U.S. not sure about Canada, was founded on secular beliefs not religious ones.

    I’m not sure about that. 400 years ago, religion was the third leg on a three legged stool. ALL society was built around having religion scruples. European as well as Native American.

    In Canada, there were always Roman Catholic priests, mostly Jesuits, involved with every colony. They came with the first explorers and accompanied them into the wilderness. Usually, they were above the local administrator and just below the military commander in rank of importance. This followed a similar role the Catholic Church played in France, but substitute the local Count for military commander. In both France and Canada the Church was tax supported.

    After Britain conquered Canada in 1760, Quebec was allowed to retain their religion, language, and customs. The Church remained a very strong influence right up until the 1950s and was finally put in its place in the 1970s.

    At the time of Independence, each Colony/State had an established religion. Although most were Anglican, not all. More people were Congregationalists than Anglican but the Church of England was a tax supported institution under British rule and supported by the Governors and Tory appointees. Being an Anglican was usually a requirement for an appointment.

    As might also be noted, Most loyalists were Anglican while the revolutionaries were Congregationalists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and other sects. Because of the strong influence the Church of England had held, the “Separation of Church and State” became desirable. Under the Anglican doctrine, the King of England was the head of the Church of England; not something the new country wanted to continue.

    See http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel05.html for a discussion.

    and
    Religion was not a major cause of the American Revolution. But the Revolutionary struggle subtly interacted with religion, then quickly produced changes that transformed traditional European relations between government and religion and made America a beacon of religious freedom for people everywhere. http://www.nps.gov/revwar/about_the_revolution/religion.html

    BUT, in the 150 years of colonization in America before the revolutionary war, religion had faded. Originally it was a very consuming and influential part of life. The Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s is an example of that. By 1780 that influence had diminished in importance as society became less communal and more personally independent. Most States had atheism as a crime right up until after the Bill of Rights came along.

    Ironically, it was Britain’s religious tolerance that allowed the revolution to occur in the first place. The Catholic Church would never have allowed the dissent. Much of the revolutionary work was done through the Congregationalist Church in New England.

    It is my own personal belief that religion has been used throughout man’s existence to explain things above our comprehension. Since the knowledge boom after WWII, man has finally unlocked the mysteries out there. Instead of using religion to explain things, we now have science. And that is a good thing.

    I hope I didn’t stray too far from your subject.

    • Sorry Mr. Fusion. Welcome back. I will reply to this eventually but was on vacation and am now very busy with work.

    • Hmm… Very interesting link from a usually reliable source. I was not aware of much of that. However, our laws really are founded (or were originally founded) on secularism and separation of church of church and state. So, perhaps I should have said our laws rather than our society.

      However, if states other than Virginia were not for the separation of church and state, why did Jefferson need to write the letter to the Danbury Baptists?

      Does it not point to the fact that at least some Christians, especially those in the minority, were worried about other Christians steamrolling over their beliefs and coercing them into worshiping in a way inconsistent with their beliefs?

      What was Jefferson reassuring them about and why?

      Remember my point in this post is to point out the lesser known topic that those who were being reassured by the wall of separation letter were Christian and that the fear they had was based on other Christians taking away their religious freedoms. After all, it was surely not a preponderance of Jews, Muslims, Hundus, Buddhists, and atheists that they were afraid of in those days.

      The fear was of Christians by Christians.

      So, as today’s Christians seek to tear down the wall, they would do well to remember that there are significant (to Christians) differences in the beliefs, rites, and rituals within Christianity. So, when the wall is torn asunder, will those who swallow the leader overpower those who do not or will it be the other way around? Will those who worship graven images of the virgin Mary and others win or lose? Some people take this shit very seriously indeed. They may care whether Ted “meth-and-man-ass’ Haggard wins or the Dope does. They may care whether or not there polygyny is legalized and/or encouraged.

      Since many do care, they should be supporting a secular rather than a sectarian nation. But, they’re not. They should pay more attention.

      • Mr. Fusion says:

        Contrary to what many believe, most states had a State Religion or restricted citizens to some degree to what religion they may belong to.
        see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state_in_the_United_States#Tabular_Summary for an intelligent discussion with some reference to State religion.

        One thing to remember is during the early days of the Union, the States were much more independent. The Constitution only applied superficially to the States. The Constitution was there to limit the Federal powers, not the State powers.

        I would think Jefferson wrote the letter as the Federal President as well as a Virginian. Virginia was one of the first colonies to discard the Church of England’s supremecy.

        As with most revolutions the new boss wants to be like the old boss. It was Washington’s credit that he was a leader and not a dictator. Adams toyed with the idea but Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe reverted back to Washington’s mold. Many people still had memories of the abuses of British rule and, I suspect, in the case of the Danbury letter, many were afraid that religious freedom would dissolve or revert back to the State religions. The letter was Jefferson’s assurance this wouldn’t happen.

      • Hi Mr. Fusion,

        I do get your point.

        However, the letter was from the president of the United States, a Virginian, to the Baptists of Danbury Connecticut. Clearly, he was reassuring them as President of the U.S., not as Governor of Connecticut, which he was not.

        Yes. I am aware that several state constitutions are in violation of the U.S. constitution. For example, in Massachusetts, it is legal to kill atheists as only those who acknowledge the supreme being are entitled to protection under their constitution.

        Luckily, such crap is not upheld anymore.

        The union (or federation if you prefer) was founded as a secular country, not a sectarian one. That is the reassurance Jefferson was making to the Baptists of Danbury Connecticut who were worried about other Christians denying them the right to worship in their way.

        That is the point of this post.

  5. humannoying says:

    Ok… Well, let me start by saying I’m probably one of the biggest misanthropes you’ll ever meet. Let me close by saying that I respect Atheists, in general, but I loathe those with Anti-Theistic views. One form of hate is not superior or morally better than any other. A true misanthrope despises all those who hate.

    • Adrian says:

      It is proper to HATE those who ACT toward the destruction of your values.
      It is improper to LOVE those who ACT toward the destruction of your values.

      This sort of thinking is misguided and due to the false virtue of altruism.
      For real perspective, consider it not you as the mark for destruction but your child. If you would LOVE or its corollary, NOT HATE, those that seek ACTION toward his destruction, then you negate the concept ‘hate’ and the concept ‘love’.

      And to be true, none of you will feel LOVE or act with LOVE toward any human individual representation of destruction toward your child. It is impossible if one loves life.

    • Just a quick reply. Hating religion does not mean hating religious people. Christians often say that they hate the sin while loving the sinner. I hate religion but don’t hate all or even most religious people.

  6. Mr. Fusion says:

    I hate religion. I also hate obvious made up excuses and plain lies. I hate those that abuse their positions of power. I hate those who use subterfuge and fraud to steal from the trusting (gullible and naive are usually pejoratives).

    And I hate overcooked broccoli and itching powder in my undies. And I really hate it when my kid uses clear tape on my toilet seat lid on April Fools Day.

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