A response to “Larry.”

This is another one of my long-winded responses to a commenter that seemed like it deserved its own entry. Larry showed up and responded to an entry I wrote awhile back titled America’s Education Evangelist. The response deals with religion, the Ten Commandments and benign Communistic dictatorships so if you don’t have any interests in such things then you may want to skip this one.

With an infinite amount of time, what is it the human race would become?

Hard to say, but then what difference does this make in relation to the rest of your comment?

I Believe in God, the creator. I am an intelligent man and carefully looked at both views and came to my decision.

That’s all fine and good, but it doesn’t say a whole lot other than you believe in a god and feel you’re intelligent. Lack of intelligence isn’t a prerequisite for faith in the idea of god(s), though it certainly helps. Lots of otherwise intelligent people have believed in all manner of ridiculous ideas over the years and plenty of highly intelligent people still fall for scams and swindles. Having a high intelligence is of no use if you don’t have good thinking skills to go along with it. But again, what does this have to do with the rest of your comment?

The ACLU fought to have the Ten Commandments removed; what is it that is so wrong with writings that merely state Do not stealӔ?

Let’s clarify this a bit: The ACLU has fought to have displays of the Ten Commandments removed from government buildings where they do not belong, such as schools or court houses. The ACLU has taken no action against any churches that display the Decalogue on their walls whether inside or outside, nor from any private home or business. As long as the place where the Decalogue is displayed is not government property then there is nothing to complain about. In many cases that have been brought up a simple resolution would have been to move a monument from the lawn in front of a court house some 30 odd feet to the lawn of a private business or a church across the street or to the side of the court house in question. The display would then be legal, being on private and not public property, and still relatively close to its old position in front of the court house yet this is not good enough for the people opposed to moving the monument. They’ll insist that they’re not trying to have it appear as though government is trying to promote Christian precepts over all others, but yet this exceedingly simple solution is unacceptable which just reveals their dishonesty.

Let’s address your question posed above: “what is it that is so wrong with writings that merely state Do not stealӔ?” In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with that particular Commandment. But that isn’t all that the Ten Commandments proclaim despite your implication. Depending on whether you’re talking about the Protestant, Catholic or Hebrew version, the Commandments say quite a bit more. Along with the admonishment that “thou shalt not” steal and kill, two commandments which the law agrees with, we also find a proclamation declaring that thou shalt have no other gods before me, not make graven images, not take God’s name in vain, keep the Sabbath holy, honor your parents, not commit adultery, not bear false witness nor covet anything belonging to your neighbors. Three of those are clearly religious in nature and specific to a particular religion (no other God, God’s name, Sabbath), four of them are good advice, but not illegal under the law (adultery, lying, honoring parents, and coveting), and one of them seems to contradict the idea of making a monument containing the Ten Commandments in the first place (graven images). Outside of the two that are reflected in the law, what is accomplished by the rest of these items being posted on a court house wall other than violating the establishment clause?

The common argument is that they serve as a reminder of what could be considered positive behavior for society as a whole and that by removing them we risk making things worse, but the truth is that many of these monuments have been in place for decades and yet most people consider American society to have gone downhill during that time. Clearly the presence of said monuments isn’t doing much good at getting people to follow the values advertised upon them so even if it were legal to post the commandments on government buildings there isn’t any evidence that they actually help improve society. Hanging a plaque that advertises the values you’d like to see reflected in society isn’t going to do a damn bit of good if people, as parents, aren’t teaching their kids those values in the home. Teaching your kids good values, however, is a lot more work than putting up Decalogues all over the place.

So let’s reverse the question and ask what good comes from putting the commandments on display in and on government buildings?

If the entire world lived by the teachings of Jesus Christ, what terrible atrocities would be committed?

Considering that Christians can’t even agree on just what, exactly, the Bible says I can imagine all manner of atrocities being possible. I’m willing to bet that if you tried to specify (which you didn’t) just what “the teachings of Jesus Christ” are that there would be plenty of other Christians who would step up and challenge your interpretations without any help from us godless heathens at all. As I recall at least one of the crusades of old involved the Catholics versus the Protestants and made for quite a bit of good old fashioned Christian on Christian violence. How can you expect the world to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ when no one can agree on just what they supposedly are?

Things would be good, nothing more and nothing less.

So says you, but if history is anything to go by I’d say your conclusion is flawed.

You wont like this statement but҅ I personally favor a dictatorship with me in charge; I could handle the job.  I am pro life, Im against capital punishment and I believe we are all equal regardless of anything.

Castro, Stalin and others did pretty well at it. I’m sure you couldn’t do any worse. Funny thing about dictators, they all seem to think they can handle the job and be completely fair with everyone they rule over. I bet if you asked all of the dictators in the world if they felt they handle the job well and were good at it they’d all say “absolutely!” I’m sure you’d be just as fair and impartial as those guys are.

The resources of the world need to be evenly distributed; if all capital were fairly divided we would all be very comfortable, what more do we need.

Communism, which is what you’re extolling the virtues of here, has been tried and has failed for the most part. Those countries that still work under that system are hardly the examples of Utopia such a wonderfully progressive idea would seem to make possible. Many are slowly moving toward more democratic systems. Part of the problem is human nature. If working hard gains you no more reward than the guy who slacks off then why should anyone bust their ass? The only place where Communism seems to work well is with insects such as ants and bees and it’s a very successful method of survival for them. Doesn’t work well with humans, though.

The current ways of America and the world permit people like Bill Gates to exist simultaneously with starving homeless children, this is wrong, period.

Why is it wrong? I can see possibly arguing that it’s unfair or tragic, but wrong? The Gates Foundation donates billions of dollars every year to provide help to underprivileged people in various countries around the world. Help these people might not receive if the Gates Foundation didn’t exist because Bill Gates wasn’t a multi-billionaire.

Still, I’d love to hear your ideas on how your benign dictatorship would make all of these problems go away and make the world a place of unending goodness.

Earlier I spoke with a gentleman who personally seen thousands of families living in a dump, eating food thrown away by the nearby resorts and making mig-shift shelters from card board boxes discarded by the casinos. As for homosexual marriages, let those people go and set up their podiums and loudspeakers in those same dumps and preach how their rights are being infringed upon.

So your argument is that homosexuals don’t have any reason to bitch about being denied the rights that heterosexuals have as long as someplace in the world there are people starving? How, exactly, are these two issues related?

16 thoughts on “A response to “Larry.”

  1. From what I have seen of your views expressed on this site I would like to think that I agree with you on most issues, (though I am slightly less averse to communism than you, but that might just have something to do with our respective locations), however, what I can not understand is your patience, and willingness to argue with people of a religious bent.  For my part the fact that someone has looked at the facts and arrived at a viewpoint that includes ideas like “well yes but what if God put the fossils there just to test us?” should exclude them from all grown-up discussion.  But I am grateful that you and others take the time to put them straight in a considered and informed way, as it not only saves the rest of us answering them through gritted teeth, it also keeps them occupied and less able to bother anyone else.  Keep up the good work.

    In case I don’t post here again before Christmas may I take this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday using, like myself, a religious festival as an excuse to spend quality time with your loved ones and generally relax.

  2. Please don’t take “Larry” as the be-all and end-all of, ah, intelligent people who believe in God.  I like to think I’m I’m both, I’m also intelligent enough to realize that absolute dictatorships never benefit anyone (except, briefly, the dictator and his/her cronies), artificial distribution of all wealth evenly would leave everyone dirt poor, and, yes, gay marriage has nothing to do with poverty (one might as easily assert that those who feel put upon by having their faboo marble Decalogue monuments removed should “go and set up their podiums and loudspeakers in those same dumps and preach how their rights are being infringed upon”).

    Okay, I feel better now.  Thanks.

  3. DaveR, I’m not particularly opposed to Communism other than the simple fact that no one seems to have applied it in a way that actually works in the idealistic fashion it’s supposed to. I don’t for example, think that Communism and religion are mutually exclusive.

    ***Dave, I certainly don’t think of Larry as being representative of anything other than Larry. grin

  4. Did you, perhaps, point out that Jesus was post-commandments?  And that none of his teachings are embodied in them, except, perhaps, where he might have repeated them?

  5. Larry lives in a colorful little world of easy solutions.  Whew!
    At least someone has this whole “being human on earth” thing figured out. Of course, I’d love to rule the world too.  Waring nations would have to put their noses on the wall, and take turns listening to the other talk about hurt feelings…then we could all have ice cream, and head out to the lake for a swim, and some lunch.
    Very simplistic…

    Your answer was good, Les.I’d have been so barking sarcastic.

  6. No, was hoping that Larry would have read his Bible enough to realize that the Commandments are pre-Jesus. Not that it matters, it seems most people only pick and choose the parts of the Bible they agree with or that support their idea of how things “should” be.

  7. Les,
    You said:

    violating the establishment clause?

    Anti-Christian discriminators love to throw the “establishment clause” of the first ammendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion) around without fully understanding it.  I imagine your understanding is probably rooted in Everson v. Board of Education, a 1947 court case that dealt with public funds and eductation and actually had nothing to do with prayer or worship in schools. 
    May I instead focus your attention on such relevant cases as Engel v. Vitale (1962) where cheif justice Goldberg said

    “It is not mere neutrality to prevent voluntary prayer to a creator; it is an interference by the courts, contrart to the plain language of the constitution, on the side of those who oppose religion”

    or perhaps you would prefer cheif justice Rehnquist’s quote from Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000)

    Neither the holding nor the tone of the opinion faithful to the meaning of the Establishment Clause, when it is recalled that George Washington himself at the request of the very Congress that passed the Bill of Rights, proclaimed a day of ‘public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God’”

    This country was founded by people that believed in and prayed to an “Almighty God”. I think that if they knew what people like you had done to their constitution and bill of rights, they would be turning in their graves.

  8. 1)
      Who said anything about “preventing voluntary prayer?”  Students are free to pray if they choose.  The Supreme Court has made this very clear on numerous occasions.  You cannot prevent a student from bringing a bible to school.  Nor can you prevent them from saying Grace, professing a belief in a deity, or pursuing any of the other religious convictions that they hold.  If they need to go outside seven times a day, spin in a circle while chanting “Jesus is Great,” then schools are legally obligated to make reasonable provisions to allow them to exercise that right.

    The Constitution also quite clearly states that you can’t FORCE people to observe a religious tradition that they don’t agree with or adhere to.  Feel free to spin and chant, but don’t expect me to allow you to do it while I’m trying to teach basic composition skills—take it outside, brother.

    2)  The fact that SOME of the founders had their own personal religious convictions has NO bearing on the validity of the establishment clause.  Apparently you post without reading any of the other material/postings on this site—quite frankly I’m rather fond of the Constitution, but I think it’s something of an anomaly that it was produced by a bunch of white guys who didn’t even consider women, blacks, or non-property-owning whites quite “good” enough to vote.  It’s not a very compelling argument to throw around the “Founding Fathers” like they’re representative of the way that things “should” be.

    3) I suspect that, between you and Les, it’s probably YOUR understanding of the establishment clause that is somewhat flawed.
     
    Apparently, a bunch of guys who have managed to get appointed to the Supreme Court would also disagree with you—but I’m sure your command of jurisprudence is far better than yours.  Maybe you should write THEM a letter and explain the error of their ways to them.

  9. I always love it when you take the time to address lazy thinkers like Larry. Hey I know it’s annoying and sometimes you just can’t muster the effort needed to communicate what should be said, but it’s necessary to speak. That’s why I have always been so pleased to have your place to visit. I know you (and Eric) will put the extra effort needed into your posts.

    Larry lost my best wishes and vote for world dictator when he said “As for homosexual marriages, let those people go and set up their podiums and loudspeakers in those same dumps and preach how their rights are being infringed upon”, after having said “I believe we are all equal regardless of anything.” This was not the only part of his post that bothered me, but it was the most self-deprecating. This so called “intelligent man” obviously believes in his goodness, but unfortunately can’t even keep his false sentiments straight. That in itself guarantees he’ll go far, if he does decide to run for President of the US at least.

    I’d be willing to bet he’s never fed a starving family, either. Many of his type are usually all talk and not prone to help those they hold up as victims of circumstance. That’s my opinion anyway.

    So Larry, keep telling yourself how intelligent you are. Maybe someday it’ll count for something.

    Thanks, Les and happy holidays to you and yours.
    Same to you Eric.

    Matter of fact, happy holidays to anyone who reads this. Except you, Larry….asshole.

  10. nowiser,
    Unfortunately many of your cohorts do not agree with the first point you made as they veheremently fight to have all reference to Christianity absolved from public view. The “prayer police” and the likes of the ACLU are out in full force. While I agree with your take on the situation, alas it is not simply not true. For example, in Lee v. Weisman (1992) the court held that it is unconstitutional for public schools to include prayers given by clergy at their official graduation ceremonies.

    Your second point;

    2) The fact that SOME of the founders had their own personal religious convictions has NO bearing on the validity of the establishment clause.

    It wasn’t SOME of the founders, it was the entire congress that declared a national day of prayer, and furthermore, it did so one day after it passed the first amendment itself!
    As Stanton Evans said; “Indeed, in one of the greatest ironies of this historical record, we see the practise of officially sponsored prayer so closely linked with the passage of the first amendment – supplying a picture of the court’s position as definitive as could be wished”

    Apparently you post without reading any of the other material/postings on this site

    You’re right, I have not waded through all 3000+ posts of Les’ but FFS who has?  If you have that much time, more power to you.

    3) I suspect that, between you and Les, it

  11. Well, I’m kind of surprised by the way you just “skipped” over my point about the founding fathers not necessarily being people that we should emulate in our actual practices.  Personally, I think my point is valid—and not subject to refutation by your decision to continue to cite the founding fathers’ religious convictions as justification for. . . whatever.
      [as an aside, I’m not surprised that you haven’t waded through “all 3000+ posts of Les’”; you’re correct that that would be quite a prodigious task.  Maybe you should start slow, and read, say, five. Or you could just reread my original post, and address that one.  (Hey, you wouldn’t happen to post under the name Hires as well, would you?)  Sorry, that’s sort of an “in” joke, and you’re really not the target, but I couldn’t resist.]
      But I’ll give it another try, as your willingness to cite specific court cases at least demonstrates the POSSIBILITY of productive dialogue.  Again—please explain to me why the Founding Fathers’ position on religion should be considered valid when we generally concur, as a society, that they held a rather benighted position about women, slavery, and a variety of other issues.  If you would then like to progress to an evaluation of the relative merit of the establishment clause, itself, outside of whatever authority might be granted it by the “founding father stamp of approval(tm)”, I would be delighted to participate.  Personally, I think your odds of making your point would improve considerably if you adopted that tack—I would still strongly disagree with you, but rhetorically speaking it would be far more effective than the appeal to authority.

    2) The quotes that you cite from the honorable justices are also largely (entirely?)from dissenting opinions, and are not predicated on these justices’ having a dispute with the validity of the establishment clause, per se; rather, the disputes are rooted in the dissenting justices’ disagreements over what constitutes “private” religious observance.  Again, this might be a fruitful area for debate, and one where you might be able to actually support your positions—the fact that the justices’ opinions were dissenting does not mean that they were invalid, just that they were in the minority.  If you wish to support their contentions, you should probably do more than just “cite them where appropriate [sic] and let them speak for themselves.”  Granted, this is a tempting out, and it is, I admit, the same one that I resorted to when I remarked that the Supreme Court’s command of jurisprudence was superior to yours.  (Personally I think I combined the ad hominem and appeal to authority quite nicely, but that doesn’t mean that my point was valid.)

    3) As for the prayer police “out in full force,” I recently heard that schools would not be allowed to have manger displays for Christmas, and while I scratched my head on that one for a while, I heard someone defending the ACLU’s position (on the O’Reilly factor of all places), and found that while my emotional response was “who cares if there’s a manger scene,” my rational response was that his argument had validity.  (That being said, let me state that I like Christmas, too.  I also read my wife all sorts of fiction—Harry Potter, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, etc.  Fairy tales can be fun, as long as people don’t start jumping off of roofs with broomsticks clamped between their legs, thinking they’re actually going to be able to fly!) 
    If, however, you believe that the ACLU are unjustified in their actions, then please feel free to specify why, and we can “engage” in a friendly little joust over it.  The adversarial system that underlies rhetoric and justice both can be a lot of fun.  And sometimes it actually produces something worth hearing.

    In brief, if you actually wish to discuss this, I would respectfully request that you
    1—explain why your appeal to authority is valid.
    2—explain why the dissenting justices’ definitions of “private” observance are more valid than those of the other justices.
    3—Cite specific instances of the “prayer police” engaging in unjustifiable attempts to restrict personal freedoms, so that we can actually deal with specifics, rather than fumble about with broad generalizations.

    (You’ll also have to cut me some slack if I don’t have a chance to respond to any Insta-post replies.  If I don’t spend some time with my wife, it’s gonna be HER that I’m debating—and I ALWAYS lose that one.)

  12. As for twolf, dude you’re hopelessly deluded if you think the founding fathers wished to have an established national religion. Most of them knew how dangerous it would be to force Christianity, or any of it’s variations, on the public through legislation. While some of them professed to be believers in God and even went as far as to credit Him for abundant crops, formation of a successful republic or anything else they could think of, even these stopped short of desiring His religion to be the law of the land.

    Quoting a couple of ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justices doesn’t really add any merit to your argument, but, if you insist on that ploy consider Justice Stevens remarks regarding the city of Elkhart, Indiana’s request for the Supreme Court to hear the case of a Ten Commandments granite display and the city’s defense that the monument was an historical work, not a religious representation. He “noted that the first two lines of the monument’s text were in a significantly larger font than the rest of the marker and state, “THE TEN COMMANDMENTS—I AM the LORD thy GOD.” Stevens said that portion of the monument inscription “is rather hard to square with the proposition that the monument expresses no particular religious preference.” The Supreme Court dissented 6-3, on May 29, 2001,
    to hear the case.

    Chief Justice Rhenquist stated that “in times of war, the laws are silent” though it would seem that observation of laws is precisely what will help us most in times of war.

    Justice Marshall said:

    “The task of interpretation is the cornerstone of the judicial process. As we undertake it, we must strive for neutrality. None of us is perfect, and I recognize that neutrality is more ideal than real. Each of us brings along to the judicial role certain preconceived biases. It is, I suppose, impossible to make a decision totally uninfluenced by them. But we as judges must try to do so to the extent we possibly can.
    The constitutional task we are assigned as judges is a very narrow one. We cannot make the laws, and it is not our duty to see that they are enforced. We merely interpret them through the painstaking process of adjudicating actual ‘cases or controversies’ that come before us.
    We must never forget that the only real source of power that we as judges can tap is the respect of the people. We will command that respect only as long as we strive for neutrality. If we are perceived as campaigning for particular policies, as joining with other branches of government in resolving questions not committed to us by the Constitution, we may gain some public acclaim in the short run. In the long run, however, we will cease to be perceived as neutral arbiters, and we will lose that public respect so vital to our function.”

    I think your views are the ones that would set the framers of the Constitution to turning in their graves.

  13. I see twolf has come out to play. OK, I suppose I should get started.

    Anti-Christian discriminators love to throw the “establishment clause” of the first ammendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion) around without fully understanding it.

    Anti-Christian discriminators? 😀 Wow, first sentence and my sides are already aching from laughter!

    Please enlighten us on how removing Ten Commandment plaques from government buildings is “Anti-Christian Discrimination.” True Anti-Christian Discrimination would be me getting a law passed banning the display of any Christian religious writings anywhere outside of a church. There’s nothing “Anti-Christian” about removing religious items from government building any more than it would be “Anti-Muslim” or “Anti-Jewish” or even “Anti-Wiccan” to demand the same of any religious items they may try to have hung on a court house wall. Seeing as those groups aren’t actually going around doing such things, that the Christians are, in fact, the ONLY group doing such things, correcting the situation isn’t anywhere CLOSE to being Anti-Christian.

    As for my understanding of the Establishment Clause it comes mainly from my studies of Thomas Jefferson who not only coined the phrase “Separation of Church and State,” but tried to clarify his meaning on it more than once. Seeing as Jefferson came up with the idea I’m working under the assumption he probably knew best what he was trying to do. Until you mentioned it I hadn’t even bothered considering the case of Everson v. Board of Education.

    With regards to the Engel v. Vitale (1962) case, it has no bearing on the issue of removing things such as the Ten Commandments from public buildings as whether the Decalogue is in place or not has no impact on a person’s right to voluntarily pray. There is nothing stopping any child that wishes to pray in a public school from doing so as long as it’s not disruptive and is not being led by school officials. It’s even legal for students to voluntarily assemble in groups before classes to pray all they want.

    As for Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000) if I recall correctly that dealt with a school policy allowing for “student-initiated” prayer prior to football games in which the court ruled that the school had, indeed, violated the Establishment clause. Perhaps Chief Justice Rehnquist felt that this decision was wrong, but the decision stands.

    This country was founded by people that believed in and prayed to an

  14. nowiser,brock and les;
    Wow, lost of stuff here, I appreciate that you all responded. I have to go to work where I might be able to read some of the other threads as nowiser and les suggested but I doubt I will be able to post anything lest I get busted reading SEB at work.

    Have a good day.

  15. After reading this I was compelled to put my two cents in. It seems to me that many fundies who try to use the fore fathers as an excuse to prove a ‘christian nation’ forget that the original settlers were eacaping the same thing they profess, a nation run by religion. They knew first-hand what a government like this turns a country into. Our fore fathers did not forget this, thank goodness, and in no way wanted this country to be based on religious doctrine. This, to me, must not be forgotten no matter how much propaganda is thrown at us by the fundies.

  16. Jesse, you raise a good point. More specifically the religion many of our Founding Fathers were trying to escape from was a faction of Christianity.

    Anyone who spends much time studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and the history of the early years of this country will see that there was a lot of time spent debating and arguing over whether the U.S. government should be a strictly secular entity. Some of the most compelling and intersting speeches given during that time period where on this very topic. It also becomes clear that the folks in favor of a secular government managed to convince the others that this was the best approach.

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