Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Multi-Purpose Anti-Theocracy Rant

Well, tomorrow is the day we USAians celebrate our declaration of independence from a king who ruled by divine right over a country where bloody battles were fought over which flavor of religion you believed in, and occasionally executed people for believing in one contrary to the state's current flavor.

Thankfully, all that stuff has gone down a fair bit since those days and I'm generally cool with you UKers. Thanks in advance for my B day present of a season premiere of Doctor Who, by the way. Anyway...

It seems to me that a very large portion of Americans have forgotten the principles we founded this nation on. I almost instinctively typed 'great nation' in that last sentence, but it's been growing increasingly clear that the actual America and my idea of America, the one I was taught about in grade school, are growing ever more distant from each other. One thing I was grateful for: In 5th grade, our class had to do some "what if" scenarios for the Bill of Rights: What if we didn't have them? I don't remember details, but it drove home the point behind the First Amendment, which protects our freedom of speech and religion. In effect, our right to think and express our thoughts: Without that, other freedoms are largely pointless, and much more easily taken away: If we can't argue against the government, our ability to prevent tyranny is crippled.

A theocracy involves an inherent conflict: Every religion I've ever seen demands spreading. Give a person of that religion power over people without that religion, and the nasty side of human nature will inevitably take over. That's why we need to maintain an unbreachable wall of separation, like Thomas Jefferson (You know, one of the founding fathers) wanted. Theocrats are willing to do whatever it takes to spread religion, and that includes suppressing dissent, quietly applying moral relativism to create convenient double-standards, etcetera.

Some theocrats like to obfuscate the meaning of the issue by claiming that freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion. This is utter bullshit. We may not have an amendment for it, but I think it's safe to say we have freedom of hobbies here in the US, right? Do I have a right to NOT collect stamps if I don't feel like it? Do I retain my right not to be forced into a hobby? Do I retain my right to be treated the same as any hobbyist under the law? Does it sound absurd to even ask these questions? If so, I don't see why bringing religion into it changes anything.

Quite frankly, I fail to see how so many fundies can be so blind to the basic logic behind combating tyranny. What's worse is that theocrats are probably blind to simple morality and ethics. I don't particularly care which: I'll oppose the atrocity of theocracy either way.

9 comments:

Theo said...

"Every religion I've ever seen demands spreading."

Well, that's only because the religions that DIDN'T, have already become extinct! Memetic evolution in action...

It always amuses me to think that the One. True. Religion. May well have briefly existed in, say, 1520-1535, revealed and known only to a humble fisherman from modern day Malawi... until his unfortunate death at the feet of a charging hippo.

wrg said...

It's good that aspiring theocrats follow the One True Religion, so that they don't have to worry about ethical quibbles when they seek to suppress all dissenting opinion. Were it not for faith, they might have to worry about whether they're doing the right thing. O what a comfort is faith.

It always seemed like a rather bad idea to have true believers guarding liberty. Those who are sincere in believing that only faith in their mythological being of choice can save an individual from eternal torment would, I should think, be obligated to encourage this faith and discourage others, even through means that in the short term seem unpalatable. After all, why worry about trivialities like freedom, dignity, or even human life when the threat of endless punishment is ever looming?

Incidentally, because New Atheism is Bad, let us out of respect for religion not consider just why unbelievers must be tormented without end. After all, since most of them also hold that God is both omnipotent and merciful, one might start to think the whole system doesn't make sense. And yes, I've heard the "separation from God" line, but the hellfire scenario still enjoys popularity. (I could say some things about the other, too, but that'd be even more tangential.)

Unfortunately, many buy into the "America is a Christian Nation" retcon. Otherwise, perhaps the population would wonder just why they insist on electing Christians to uphold the constitution, when the faith demands that everyone must accept Christ or else.

Joshua said...

"Quite frankly, I fail to see how so many fundies can be so blind to the basic logic behind combating tyranny."

That's easy. They're not at all interested in combating tyranny. They fight for tyranny, the autocratic rule of their Imaginary Friend over all.

Berlzebub said...

freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion. This is utter bullshit. We may not have an amendment for it, but I think it's safe to say we have freedom of hobbies here in the US, right?

I have a better example than that. Since the First Amendment also contains Freedom of the Press. Does that mean that the media have to report on every story, or that I have to buy and read the paper every day? Does the freedom to protest it mean that I have to protest every single thing I don't agree with?

No, I don't have to. Although, I do try to keep track of the news, and I have "peaceably" demonstrated against something before.

People that try that argument should plead the fifth, when confronted with it. Oh wait, it says they don't have to incriminate themselves, it doesn't say anything about not proving how ignorant they are.

Infophile said...

Thankfully, all that stuff has gone down a fair bit since those days and I'm generally cool with you UKers. Thanks in advance for my B day present of a season premiere of Doctor Who, by the way. Anyway...

Learn to Torrent; the season's already over, and it went out with a bang (even if it did have its cheesy moments).

SteveM said...

I have always thought that Hamilton made a pretty near prescient argument against a bill of rights in Federalist paper #84
http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed84.htm

The gist is that the Constitution is the people granting certain powers to the government. That there is no need to limit powers that are not even granted to government in the first place. Since nowhere in the Constitution is government given the power to establish a religion, why do you need to say that it is forbidden? By doing so, you open the door to the assumption that in order for the power to be limited, the government must then have some power to establish it. I agree with Hamilton that by including a Bill of Rights, we have essentially killed the idea of power deriving from the people in favor of trying to protect people from the all powerful state. We turned from the revolutionary idea that governments are established to protect rights to the previous view that governments grant rights to the people.

Akusai said...

While I understand Hamilton's argument, a major problem with it is that there was at the time (and certainly is now) a school of thought that government's powers are not those specifically delineated to it, but rather all those powers which are not specifically prohibited. I think it relies too much on the good graces of those in government to do only what they are explicitly allowed to do, and such an assumption will almost always bite you in the ass in the end.

It seems naive to me to claim that people (and specifically people in government) will only think that government has the power to establish a religion if you specifically prohibit it. I, for one, hate to think what might have happened had that power not been specifically proscribed.

And that's what the Bill of Rights does: it doesn't act as a document whereby the government grants rights to the populace; it is a document that delimits and cripples the government further and more specifically than the Constitution proper.

SteveM said...

Yes, I agree that the Bill of Rights does not actually grant rights to the people, but it does instill that sense in most people. By including the Bill, you reinforce that school of thought that government has all powers except those specifically prohibited. What the Founders, Hamilton in particular, were trying to do was create a government that only had those powers specifically granted. If there were no BoR, perhaps the populace would have maintained a bit more vigilance in keeping government limited to just those powers, rather than the current sense of indifference and trust in the BoR to protect us from the "feds".

Margaret said...

They're not at all interested in combating tyranny. They fight for tyranny, the autocratic rule of their Imaginary Friend over all.

Yes, indeed, but I think "Imaginary Slave Owner" would be more accurate than "Imaginary Friend." One does not bow down before a friend, or spend one's life in terror of a friend's punishments, or fear to ask a simple question of a friend. I am so glad I am a free woman, and not the fearful slave of such an imaginary owner.