One Nation Under God.

What happens if the United States abandons the separation of Church and State?  This separation has been the source of many comments here on SEB.  The fear is that it may become a reality. But really will it turn out bad?

One Nation Under God…

  1. What happens to schooling?  In many European states schools have a religious element.  In the UK a religious assembly must be held by law. This may surprise Americans, but in my experience it does not turn out hordes of Fundies.  It is 20 minutes to be endured, often with a homily about being nice, and then back to class, including Evolution.  The fear is of course that it can not be that mellow in the States.  Instead science will be only that which agrees with “God’s word”.  Which will it be – hum-drum or Dover?
  2. What happens to the rights of non-Christians?  A colleague in my office told me of her son, a merchant banker in Chicago.  At one multinational bank, a world player, it was made clear that promotion was hindered by his lack of faith.  Will those outside a Man-Woman legal marriage be discriminated against for their sexual morals?  Will job discrimination on the basis of religion be legal, tolerated, even commonplace? Even common rights? Bush Sr doesn’t think atheists can be patriotic – why should they have rights?  What about the ‘wrong kind of Christians’? Will it be a ‘broad church,’ or a narrow path to righteousness?
  3. How will the world treat America?  Will the Middle-East try an oil war? What will happen to Europe, will we be dragged down the same path in an effort to stay friends?  How will the new Superpower – China – react?  Will it make an Islamic Nuke in Times Square a certainty? Will alliances depend on religion? One Nation Under God, or leader on the world stage.
  4. What about Business? Will inward investment stop, especially in reaction to the previous three points?  Which will accommodate the other?  The Religious Right – when it’s a toss up are they Religious or are they Neo-Cons?

84 thoughts on “One Nation Under God.

  1. Just subscribing to this thread.  The two words that come mind in response to this question are, “Nehemiah Scudder”.  It seems to be what many prefer.

  2. You’re right about your first point. Even in state schools, we have Christian assemblies – singing songs about God and discussing Christian themes – but then we still cover evolution in depth and there’s no mention of ‘intelligent design’ in science.

    Without trying to start some kind of US vs UK rivalry, I think you’ll find that many British Christians accept the theory of evolution in some form or another, and believe that both theories are perhaps compatible in some way.

  3. LH: But really will it turn out bad?

    Yes.
    One Nation under God is like any of the Middle-eastern countries where there is no freedom to be anything but a Moslem.
    Right now the fundies aren’t quite powerful enough to kill non-believers at will but …
    The fundies, like moslems, believe we, and people like us, are satanists who shouldn’t have any rights.

    DoF: Nehemiah Scudder

    I wonder if the fundies could come together and compromise on what they believed.
    Hope not. LOL

  4. The seperation of Church and State in the U.S. is not designed to protect the secular from the religious, but the religious from themselves. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Arguably, after a bit of gloating and sticking it to the seculars, there would soon be pitched battles between Christian denominations – in other words, a war for the state religion.

  5. The religion aspect of British School life really shouldn’t be overstated.  I certainly never sang a hymn after the age of 13.

    Also, whereas we have a Christian religious tradition here in the UK going back 17-18 centuries, the actual strength of religion is pitiful (thankfully) compared to the strength of religion in the US.

    70% of Britons claim to not attend church, pray regularly or observe their faith in any meaningful fashion.  Over in your neck of the woods its only about 30% and the strength of your evenagelicals and fundies is vastly greater than over here.

    To summarize, you need your seperation of church and state to protect you from your own religious clowns.  We don’t have the laws but due to a corresponding lack of fundies, we don’t really need them.  I personally would rather like us to have the same seperation enshrined in Law that you yanks do, after all, we never when them Christians might come back.

  6. elwedriddsche there would soon be pitched battles between Christian denominations

    That’s the ultimate result of the fundies’ wet dream to “remake America”—they fail to understand that when one’s beliefs are made up of whatever myths and fantasies one wants, there is always someone who believes something different—and who thinks his/her belief is just as (or more) valid.

    The “ultra-fundies” will require even more 7th-century behavior (remember the Taliban in Afghanistan blowing up the historical rock carvings because they “were an affront to god”?) than the current fundies—and that will shock the hell out of the “good folks” who simply wanted to move America “closer to god.”

    Ulta-fundies might actually enforce (by pain of death) the “no work on Sunday” rule. They could easily insist on writing moses’ laws into the state laws—garbage that no sane person would ever obey or enforce.

  7. The seperation of Church and State in the U.S. is not designed to protect the secular from the religious, but the religious from themselves.

    Elwed is generally correct when the shaded and jaded aspects are picked from the post.  The purpose of the clause was not to protect the secular from the religious, but rather, to protect the right to worship as one see’s fit.

  8. The purpose of the clause was not to protect the secular from the religious, but rather, to protect the right to worship as one see’s fit.

    And not to have to pay tribute (monetarily or otherwise) to a sect to which one did not belong.

  9. The seperation of Church and State in the U.S. is not designed to protect the secular from the religious, but the religious from themselves. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    I have to agree.  If there was no seperation of church and state every religion would want their prayer in school, and their bible quotes in public buildings.  Hell let us not forget about the crazy bat-shits either.  Even they would have to have their input.  Could you imagine the input she would have!

  10. 1.  What happens to schooling?

    The government forces Christians to buy a secular education for their children through taxes. That is not freedom of religion or separation of church and state. There is only one way to reconcile free education for all children with freedom of (and from) religion: vouchers and school choice. And as with all isues of rights and freedoms, the left is on the wrong side of the debate.

    2. What happens to the rights of non-Christians?  A colleague in my office told me of her son, a merchant banker in Chicago.  At one multinational bank, a world player, it was made clear that promotion was hindered by his lack of faith.

    My work has a code of conduct that limits the kinds of things I can say. Is this a violation of my freedom of speech? Of course not, the left has never quite been able to distinguish between government censorship and voluntary association. If I want to start a business that requires all employees to wear red shirts, I should be free to do so. The same principle applies to religion. Once again, the left wants the government to force people to behave the way they want.

      4. What about Business? Will inward investment stop, especially in reaction to the previous three points?  Which will accommodate the other?  The Religious Right – when it’s a toss up are they Religious or are they Neo-Cons?

    Given the chronic malaise of the European economy, it is extremely unlikely. Right now other nations are so eager to invest in the US that the price of capital is artificially low.

  11. The government forces Christians to buy a secular education for their children through taxes.

    Actually if you want to send your children to a non-secular school you and Christians alike can do so.  No one forces you to go to public schools.  That is freedom of choice.

    The same principle applies to religion.

    Huh, last I heard in my I/O Pychology class, that an employee under contract cannot be fired and it is also against the law to not give a promotion based off of religion.  Why, because that is discrimination.  But as a religious nut you probably don’t care about discrimination.

    Once again, the left wants the government to force people to behave the way they want.

    No we just think discrimination is wrong and should be illegal.

  12. Actually if you want to send your children to a non-secular school you and Christians alike can do so.  No one forces you to go to public schools.  That is freedom of choice.

    It is not freedom of choice when I am still forced to pay for them. Again, vouchers are the only way to reconcile choice with mandatory free education. And the left (as always) is on the wrong side.

    Huh, last I heard in my I/O Pychology class, that an employee under contract cannot be fired and it is also against the law to not give a promotion based off of religion.  Why, because that is discrimination.  But as a religious nut you probably don’t care about discrimination.

    How about we avoid the ad hominem attacks and have a pleasant debate?

    1. Who said anything about breaking contract? If two people want to voluntarily enter into a contract that requires one person to wear a red shirt, then they should be free to do so. And if that person doesn’t, then he can be fired.
    2. Positive law != natural law. It is against the law to discriminate based on a religion, but in a free society people should be allowed to voluntarily associate as they please.

      Once again, the left wants the government to force people to behave the way they want.

    No we just think discrimination is wrong and should be illegal.

    1. Hate speech is also wrong. Will you make that illegal too?
    2. Suppose you want to start a business with your atheist buddies. Would you want to be forced to hire a Christian? Should Prometheus Press be forced to hire Christians?
    3. Hiring is a process of discrimination. You discriminate against people who are less skilled, less educated, less intelligent, less hard working.

  13. I agree with you that school should be paid by the government since I am a socialist, but right now, you are not paying so that your child can go to school A instead of school B.  You are paying so that your child can go to school.  As long as there are multiple schools in your district you actually have a choice of where to send your child.  That sounds like freedom of choice.

    You can associate if you want.  But association is different from saying, “Sorry Joe you are fired.  Why?  Because I hate atheists and I heard you are one.”  That is downright discrimination.  I am all for freedoms and the right to not be persecuted by the government, but discrimination on any issue is just flat out wrong.

    Hate speech is also wrong. Will you make that illegal too?
    2. Suppose you want to start a business with your atheist buddies. Would you want to be forced to hire a Christian? Should Prometheus Press be forced to hire Christians?

    Hate speech is wrong, but as Thomas Jefferson said (not sure on exact quote), “The freedom of speech allows for a marketplace of ideas, which gives people the opportunity to choose with which ideas to subscribe.”  While hate speech is wrong, and you won’t hear any from my mouth, it is legitimate under the marketplace of ideas.  What I meant by discrimination is where you say, I will not hire you cause you are Christian.  That is illegal, and rightfully so.

    3. Hiring is a process of discrimination. You discriminate against people who are less skilled, less educated, less intelligent, less hard working.

    Yes it certainly is, but not hiring someone because you can show by calling previous employers, that they are not the best candidate, means you are going to hire someone that is more may not have problems, showing up late, no call no show, actually knows what they are doing, and will need less training and less coaching.  Not hiring someone because of their religion simply shows a bias to their beliefs, not character or work ethic.

  14. Sorry for double dip and typo

    means you are going to hire someone that is more may not have problems, showing up late, no call no show, actually knows what they are doing, and will need less training and less coaching.

    Shold be:
    means you are going to hire someone that may not have problems…

  15. As long as there are multiple schools in your district you actually have a choice of where to send your child.  That sounds like freedom of choice.

    Not if I have to pay for the secular school, then have the option of paying for a second education at a private school.

    You can associate if you want.  But association is different from saying, “Sorry Joe you are fired.  Why?  Because I hate atheists and I heard you are one.

  16. Not if I have to pay for the secular school, then have the option of paying for a second education at a private school.

    Sorry but seperation of church and state keeps religious teachings out of secular schools.  If you want to teach my kid about the what’s in the bible, then you got to do it at a church or at a religious school.  If you were allowed to teach kids about the bible in public schools, then that means my tax dollars are paying for my son to learn about YOUR religion.  No longer is there a seperation of church and state.  Not only that, my son (depending on the age level of school we are talking about) would get the impression that what your teaching is in fact reality.  When in actuality it is part of YOUR belief structure, and you have no way of proving if it is in fact reality.

    Or do you disagree? Prometheus Press should be forced to hire Christians? The Democratic National Comittee should be forced to hire Republicans? Women-only gyms should be forced to hire (and admit) men?

    Again this issue also came up in my I/O Pyschology class and was answered this way.  If the organization, whatever it may be, decides to not hire someone on religion, then they have to prove that hiring that person would effect the function of their job.  So the examples of the orginizations that you mentioned, along with a few you didn’t, like Churches, and non-secular schools, have the right to descriminate on a specific topic because they can show that people need to be part of their belief to function on the job.  In other words a Catholic Church can show that the priests they hire need to be of Catholic faith to perform that job to the fullest of the applicants ability.  The DNC can show that they need to hire someone of the democratic belief structure to have proper job functioning.  And so on, and so on. 

    And with the Women’s gym, I haven’t heard of an all male or all female gym not hiring the opposite sex for some specific job function, but again, they can show how hiring the opposite sex could have a hinderance on job function and/or performance.

  17. Webs, you’re missing an obvious point or two.

    The U.S. is a secular nation and none of the taxes paid are supposed to be used in direct support of one religious faith over the other (or any at all). What was that phrase again? Oh, yes. Love it or leave it.

    Hiring is obviously a discriminatory process, but there is no problem as long as the discrimination is limited to professional qualifications. It’s only when hiring decisions are consistently driven by factors other than professional merits, like gender, race, age, nationality, or religion, that use of the label ‘discriminatory’ is justified.

  18. Thanks for the points Elwed.  I am still practicing my debate skills.  What has really surpirsed me though is how being involved with blogging and other people’s blogs, has sharpened my skills in debate.

  19. Having just skimmed through, a couple of my own comments.

    1.  One of the reasons the church is so pervasive yet, fundamentally, non-influential in the UK (and in most of Europe) is precisely because it was set up as a state religion.  What the “let’s make this a Christian nation” crowd never realizes is that getting church in bed with government compromises *both* of them, associates both of them with the status quo.  It becomes all state-based rote and ritual, and a prayer meeting becomes no more meaningful or sacred than a daily rote Pledge of Allegiance.

    2.  Bear in mind as well that, for all that we (mostly) love our faith-neutral/agnostic/separate state vs. church, that’s a relatively new phenomenon in this country.  While we haven’t had a state church since the 18th Century, the cultural and legal norms were mainstream Protestantism.

    The results were not apocalyptic Gileads.  Yes, minority or dissenting religious groups faced social and legal hurdles and (relatively) mild discrimination and prejudice, explicit or implicit.  Jews and Catholics need not apply.  And family and social (and medical) law was more explicitly driven by religious-based laws (“sodomites” need not apply, either).  But it was *not* the “Handmaiden’s Tale” fundamentalist nightmare that so many freethinkers have today (nor the “New Jerusalem” fundamentalist dream that so many religious conservatives have, either). 

    I would rather not go back to those days, because I think what we have today *is* a lot better.  But there’s no indication that a US with significantly weakened church/state boundaries would be a theocracy of mullahs.  It would be a less free land, without question, and some folks would suffer (some mightily), but it would be more like the 19th Century than the 15th.

  20. I’m not sure about how schools are funded where you live, but I have to pay for schools (via taxes) though I do not have children of my own. I get no “childless exemption.”

    We pay for the education of ALL children in our country/nation/region etc—it is our obligation to the children in our society and to the future of the country. It is impractical and entirely unreasonable to offer the practice/teaching of religious doctrine in the classroom—that’s what sunday school/catechism/church is for. Feel free to supplement your child’s education with the doctrine of your choice.

    You can certainly hire someone of your own faith to work in your shop and there are lots of organizations that work that way—nepotism is alive and well everywhere in the world. However, you can’t just arbitrarily decide that since you found Jesus last week, you’re now going to fire your entire staff and hire from the flock. I can’t just fire my employees or force my religious ideas/practice on them by holding them ransom with a paycheck.

    What I’ve never understood is why so many people fail to see that it is unhealthy when politicians glom onto religious ideology to promote their agenda. The whole “our god is bigger than your god” (or “god is on MY side and not yours”) thing gets pretty tiring and leads to some horrendous political acts.

  21. How about this ‘discrimination’: Letter to Arby’s?

    Hank was turned off by the dude with all the piercings, and elected not to buy a sandwich the fellow had handled.  Piercings are voluntary behavior, and from the business owner’s perspective, that is good reason to march ‘Pierce’ right out the door, because he was losing customers.  It isn’t the business’ role to judge or educate their customers in tolerance.

    Now suppose the employee was black, or in some settings, white.  Not voluntary, like piercings, so not discriminatable.  Under the law, both customer and business owner just have to suck it up.

    Now suppose the employee was Christian, or in some settings, atheist.  If atheism is voluntary, then so is religion.  How does it differ from the piercings?

    On a related matter, anyone who wants to answer, why should anyone be allowed to let non-evidentary cosmologies take the place of their kids’ science education?  How would that be different from ‘math is the work of the devil’?  Should exceptions be made for people who find science offensive?  Why?

  22. Other comments came in while I was typing…

    One of the reasons the church is so pervasive yet, fundamentally, non-influential in the UK (and in most of Europe) is precisely because it was set up as a state religion.

    Yeah, in my sneakier moments, I’ve toyed with the idea of saying ‘sure, let’s have a state church – it won’t be worth a damn’.  But you are right, that compromises government too.

    Feel free to supplement your child’s education with the doctrine of your choice.

    Well said.  Can i swipe that?

  23. Sorry but seperation of church and state keeps religious teachings out of secular schools. If you want to teach my kid about the what’s in the bible, then you got to do it at a church or at a religious school. 

    School choice will not force atheists to get a religious education. But the lack of school choice forces people who are religious to pay for a secular education (regardless of whether or not they use it). Clearly this dilemma is a non-issue for atheists, but I would hope that I can appeal to their fairmindedness to see that this situation is wrong.

    Again this issue also came up in my I/O Pyschology class and was answered this way.  If the organization, whatever it may be, decides to not hire someone on religion, then they have to prove that hiring that person would effect the function of their job.

    That is a reasonable enough position but I disagree for several reasons.
    (1) I think that feminists should be able to start, say, a real estate business and enjoy the company of likeminded feminist coworkers. This should not be limited to the employees at the feminist bookstore next door. I think that the freedom to do this is an inherently good thing under any circumstances

    (2) Even if it is a bad thing, granting the government the power to force our behavior to conform to certain standards is a dangerous thing

    (3) there are positive externalities for hiring from one group. For exmaple, the boss/overseer comes from that group and knows the individual character cues much better. Early Italian immigrants were discriminated against so they started their own businesses managed by Italian immigrants who knew the cultural cue of their employees. Bank of America was originally the Bank of Italy.

    (4) like it or not, in the real world some cultural groups outperform others. The marketplace of ideas should be applied here as well. I wouldn’t want to hire early 20th century Irish workers because you can’t tell if they are alcoholics in a job interview. And you can’t rely on references because of issues of libel. In today’s times, many businesses have shifted from hiring blacks to latinos. They have found out the hard way that latinos are a safer bet to find a good employee. I’m not going to tell a struggling business owner to hire people who are less likely to do a good job.

  24. School choice will not force atheists to get a religious education. But the lack of school choice forces people who are religious to pay for a secular education

    Yep that’s exactly right.  Reason being, our founding fathers thought that Church should be seperate from state so that issues of there being one true religion, or so people do not have to go through the persecution that the Puritans went through.

    That is a reasonable enough position but I disagree for several reasons.

    Disagree all you want, it won’t change the way the law is written, and it won’t change how people view descrimination and how they feel about the issue.

    Even if it is a bad thing, granting the government the power to force our behavior to conform to certain standards is a dangerous thing

    As is discrimination on any level… say like not hiring or promoting someone based on their religious teachings.

    Early Italian immigrants were discriminated against so they started their own businesses managed by Italian immigrants who knew the cultural cue of their employees.

    Not only was this before our current laws on descrimination in the work place which came about in the mid 1900’s to the 70’s, but again this brings up the issue of the law.  If they can show that the descrimination is required for job functionality, then they are allowed to descriminate.

    I wouldn’t want to hire early 20th century Irish workers because you can’t tell if they are alcoholics in a job interview. And you can’t rely on references because of issues of libel. In today’s times, many businesses have shifted from hiring blacks to latinos. They have found out the hard way that latinos are a safer bet to find a good employee. I’m not going to tell a struggling business owner to hire people who are less likely to do a good job.

    You not only failed to provide any fact to prove your position on any of these points, or further help your postion in this statement.  But actually showed that you are a biased, racists, and arrogant (insert your favorite curse word) individual.

  25. Justin: There is only one way to reconcile free education for all children with freedom of (and from) religion: vouchers and school choice.

    I wonder if this is the first time I’ve agreed with Justin.
    Of course I disagree with the blinkered view of everything else he said.

    Not if I have to pay for the secular school, then have the option of paying for a second education at a private school.

    Justin, are you bitching about what your government spends your taxes on our do y’all get a separate bill for schooling? The former, yes?
    I’d be more annoyed about many other things the gov’t wasted your money on – I won’t suggest a list but an unwinnable war would top it.  downer

    Shelley: I get no “childless exemption.

  26. I can not understand Justin and his constant reference to ‘secular’ schools.  Do you believe that all state schools should teach the bible as fact. Do you wish schools to hold two different Religeous Education classes- one which is a study of religeon around the world, as it is taught now as a sort of sociology, and one that teaches Judeo-Christianity as fact.

    More importantly do you think that science should not be taught if it conflicts with bible teachings- evolution, age of earth, great flood etc. THIS IS NOTHING TO DO WITH FUNDING. The funding is really a side issue. If you had a chance to dictate national education policy (with unlimited powrs) what would you do? (please dont answer ‘thats not going to happen’- I want to know what you think is the ideal way to raise all you country’s children if the law could be enacted).

    (PS you misinterpreted the question re: economy.  The question was ‘How would world business treat a strongly religeous US- would they see it as a good thing or bad thing, especially in light of developments in the other areas- not how do you see the current position.  Plus the rather side answer you gave ignored the fact that lots of world economists are worried about the abyss the neo-cons are leading the US into- massive national debt, a weak dollar, vunerability to oil problems and the threat of China)

    PPS- thanks to Les for sorting my ‘guest post’ out- even bothering to find out my nick.

  27. School choice will not force atheists to get a religious education. But the lack of school choice forces people who are religious to pay for a secular education (regardless of whether or not they use it). Clearly this dilemma is a non-issue for atheists, but I would hope that I can appeal to their fairmindedness to see that this situation is wrong.

    I have no children and don’t want to pay for the school system at all. I’m my opinion, only people with children should pay a school tax.

    In my city they take 1.5% of my income to pay for other peoples kids. Is that fair? From that angle I agree with you. Are you prepared to give me that? Probably not. You want my to pay for your kids to go to some christian school so they can be stupid, believe the world is only 4-5k year old and make wooden nails. At least if your kids go to a secular school, they may educate themselves and ask “what exo-biblical evidence is there for jesus?” Why do I believe what I do and the muslims, buddist, shinto, etc… believe differently?

  28. Justice, I’ve been trying to get the folks at pMachine to add one for awhile now. I’ll go ask again. wink

  29. Lucifer: “I have no children and don’t want to pay for the school system at all. I’m my opinion, only people with children should pay a school tax.”

    While I understand the frustration over paying for something you don’t directly use, I wonder how smart a position that is to take.

    1> Funding for our schools is crucial, and there is hardly enough as it is in too many areas. An under-educated country is bad news even for childless you.

    2> If individuals paid taxes based on personal benefit/use, seems to me everybody would lose. Think of our roads, for instance. We would have to figure out who used what roads and how often, what type of vehicle they drove… We would have people paying outrageous sums of money in certain areas, while others in different areas paid not so much…

    I’m just thinking if we went with your way of thinking, you would have a whole lot more to complain about than 1.5% of your income.

    Cool, Les!

  30. Lucifer: I have no children and don’t want to pay for the school system at all. I’m my opinion, only people with children should pay a school tax.

    In my opinion, you’re full of … ignorance and egotism.

    If you pay any taxes at all, you probably pay federal income tax. Did you know that some percentage of that goes towards the maintenace of the Interstate system and you probably don’t travel some of these roads? Why shouldn’t you withhold a couple of bucks then?

    And so on… What you’re asking for is full veto power over what use your tax dollars are put to. Brilliant idea, unless you consider that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Believe it or not, but it’s in your best interest to have well-educated kids. Kidless people that came before you helped fund the education of your employer and/or customers.

    Lucky John, I beg to differ. The answer is not vouchers and school choice – more kids would get the kind of “education” that some parents want, as opposed to the education they all need. The way I see it, vouchers would just further weaken an already underfunded education system – precisely what the rightwingnuts want, of course. There’s a much simpler answer – give all kids a shot at a decent, standard, “secular” education. If that pisses off the religionists or if somebody wants an even better education, then they are and have always been free to supplement their kid’s education.

  31. There’s a lot of stupid crap for which paying taxes makes my blood boil.  But then there’s schools.  Our schools aren’t perfect, Dog knows, but I am proud to contribute to the effort of an educated nation. Even (or perhaps especially) the kids of other people who are too jammed up in some occluded vision to want their kids to have a reality-based education.

    Saying; “I gots no kids so I doesn’t want to pay for other peoples’s kids school-ifyin’” cuts no ice with me at all. You think bad roads are dangerous?  Contaminated water?  Nothing’s more dangerous than ignorance.

  32. Elwed: I beg to differ.

    I understand and even agree with some of the points you raise but after seeing the programme on America’s schools (at:

    ) compared to Belgium’s I thought a voucher system would be better as parents would want their kids going to the best performing schools. I could be wrong. smile

  33. Austria, like the UK, has no separation of Church and State, although there is no state church here.  My two kids grew up taking religion classes until the fourth grade of gymnasium (eighth grade American), and there was a crucifix hanging in every classroom.  The result?  They’re both confirmed atheists.

    Now, of course there were other influences at work here too- I’m an atheist, European culture is increasingly atheistic, and both kids are well grounded in reality.  Also, from what I gathered, the religion classes were anything but dogmatic- as Hussar said about classes in the UK, they were more about being nice.  But it certainly is possible to have religious instruction in public schools without creating a nation of mullahs.

    That said, this is a sticky and complex issue.  I could imagine having religion taught in American public schools, as an elective, paid for by the parents who want it for their kids.  Of course, there might be problems between kids who attend religion and those who don’t, although my kids said it was no big deal in their school.

    It might be, however, that keeping religious instruction at home and in church is a better solution.  But therein lies the rub. “Secular” means “reality-based” to me, “religious” means “fantasy-based”.  For me as an atheist, “secular education” and “religious education” are not equatable- they are non-overlapping magisteria, in Stephen Gould’s phrase.  Not only that, but properly speaking, there’s only one kind of “secular” education, but myriad kinds of “religious” education.

    Religious folk, however, usually recognize a certain amount of overlap, how much depending upon the particular flavor of their fantasy.  For instance, most believers also subscribe to gravity and algebra.  Many do not subscribe to evolution or an old Earth.  If believers want their kids to be taught that snakes talk, they should do this on their own time at their own expense.

    But in any case, everyone should pay for “secular” education.  Gravity and geometry affect atheist and believer alike, and we keep our kids ignorant at our peril.

  34. Zilch: Now, of course there were other influences at work here too- I’m an atheist, European culture is increasingly atheistic, and both kids are well grounded in reality.

    Yes. Interesting. I think the main keys there were Your influence, and the ‘European culture is increasingly atheistic’, as I’m lead to believe that Kultcha (peer pressure) has a big bit to do with the outcome.
    I’ve been bombarded with American Kultcha since we got TV in the late 50s but I was never tempted to be sucked in although I have always been interested in Why, What and How people get sucked into religion.
    I just said: I was never tempted to be sucked in … that’s not completely true – a coupla three times I wanted to be but … I could never make that gigantic LEAP of faith.
    I still remember a show (maybe the Oscars) when I heard someone say for the first time: I thank god for my win … and then mentioned parents, et al. (Since then they ‘all’ seem to do it)
    At the time I thought: What a fuckwit.
    Even now, Australians rarely wear their religion on their sleeves.
    I’m glad to assume that we are a much more secular society, although there are minor signs the xians are gaining a little power.
    BUT, our Prime minister (he has said he’s a xian and attends church regularly – dunno which one but it is definitely PROTEST-ant) would never get on the world stage and make any reference to his doing anything in the name of dog. I don’t like the little prick but he’s a fuckin’ master politician.
    Kultcha – Dad (89) just called to ask if he was weird in not accompanying his wife and some friends to see The Merchant of Venice. Ha-ha. He speaks the English language better than most but, being a Dutchman and a literalist, has no appreciation of the nuances.
    He feels better now.
    Obviously, my being his first-born, he felt better after talking to me.
    All he remembered about the Merchant of Venice is Shylock and Shakespeare’s, seeming anti-Semitism.
    I reminded him of the world’s view of the Jews in the 17th Century … not much has changed.
    It’s funny about Shylock’s demanding ‘his pound of flesh’ – these days, money lenders (banks), taking ya fucking house, is no big deal. LOL

  35. But the lack of school choice forces people who are religious to pay for a secular education

    Here’s the whole problem in a nutshell (pardon the pun). Some people seem to believe that education is either secular or religious.

    In fact, religious education is merely an add-on—it is an ‘extra’ (something beyond a basic education that is required and taught in ‘secular’ schools).

    When you pay for secular school, you’re simply paying for a basic education. If you want to add religion to your child’s curriculum, send you children to Sunday School—that’s the purpose for which it was intended, and as far as I can tell, most churches do not charge a fee for this service so you won’t be out an extra penny.

    That is not to say that it is free—it isn’t. And like many others here, I resent the fact that I must pay extra taxes to compensate for the billions in taxes that are not paid by religious organizations.

  36. Justin writes…

    School choice will not force atheists to get a religious education. But the lack of school choice forces people who are religious to pay for a secular education (regardless of whether or not they use it). Clearly this dilemma is a non-issue for atheists, but I would hope that I can appeal to their fairmindedness to see that this situation is wrong.

    I’m not happy with the $323 million taxpayer dollars in the 2007 budget allocated to Bush’s Faith Based Initiative programs (which is up by 36 percent over 2006’s $236 million). Personally, I think I can make better choices on which charities my money should go to than the government can and I’m not fond of my taxes being used to allow religious organizations to go on recruitment drives under the guise of helping the needy.

    Problem is, I have no control over my tax dollars going to these programs as Bush decided to bypass Congress altogether and just declare that he was going to put this program in place whether anybody wanted it or not. If I want to contribute to any secular charities I have to do so in addition to my taxpayer dollars going towards Bush’s program with which I vehemently disagree. This situation is, I’m sure you’ll agree, wrong and should be corrected by providing us with Charity Vouchers that we can then direct towards charities that we feel will make the best use of our hard earned cash.

    Can I count on your support for this voucher program? The situations are pretty much the same and you’re such a fair minded person, Justin.

  37. I’m arriving a little late to the party, and there are lots of great comments here, so I’ll just add this to the list of responses to Justin’s comments:

    Justin: (2) Even if it is a bad thing, granting the government the power to force our behavior to conform to certain standards is a dangerous thing

    The government forced us to conform to certain standards that most people nowadays would agree was the RIGHT thing . . . things like civil rights, desegregation, anti-discrimination laws to name just a few.  The list goes on. 

    Sometimes, only the power of government can exact change on dangerous behavior. Vigilant citizens help keep the government in check.

    The problems usually arise when government unfairly takes or assumes power. Using Les’ example of faith-based initiatives, one only needs to see how Bush’s brother Jeb consistently blocks any attempts to have this dangerous and completely unfair system of monetary rewards challenged in the Florida courts. 

    As for the “I don’t have kids, why should I pay school taxes?” argument, what elwed and DOF said.

  38. Webs: “As long as there are multiple schools in your district you actually have a choice of where to send your child.”

    Actually, it just ain’t so simple.

    When this school year starts, I will have three kids going to three different schools (because of their grade levels), and not one will go to the school for which they are zoned. Every year it is battle, every year we face the possibility they will not “get into” the school they went to the year before. The school only has to say they are full with students in their zone. That has happened to us. (Just one example of why that statement oversimplifies the situation.)

    I don’t have them out-of-zone because I like not having the option to put them on the bus, or because I like spending all my money on fuel and auto maintenance. I have them out-of-zone because the schools in this district simply suck. There is not a lot of money in this area, and it shows in the schools. The schools they are attending are in higher class areas, and it shows in the opportunities those schools offer, as well as in the condition of their buildings and supplies.

    The answer is not asking only parents to shoulder the cost, nor is the answer in opening more problems schools on vouchers. Both those ideas will only cut funding for public schools, and as others already so eloquently put it: it is just stupid to support an (even more) under-educated country.

    The answer is in leveling out the playing field, but it is so much easier said than done. Parents in high class areas DO NOT want funds for their schools going toward inner city schools, and so on. But again, it is not so self-preserving under the surface. With an under-educated country, we all lose.

    Level the playing field to strengthen the basic education and to strengthen the schools offering that basic education. To my mind, it shouldn’t be this difficult.

  39. I live in one of the lower-priced areas of Los Angeles and pay over $3000/yr. in property taxes, part of which go toward the schools in the LA Unified School District.  My daughter, however, attends school in the next town over, a higher-priced area that is not part of the City of Los Angeles and has its own school district, power company, police and fire departments. I have chosen to send her there, and to do the annual jumping through hoops to get an interdistrict transfer because the school system is superior both academically and in terms of being less crowded and/or dangerous.  While I’m not personally using the schools some of my tax dollars are helping pay for, I’m fine with knowing that those dollars are going to further the education of the kids in my neighborhood, as those kids may one day be my employees, or will be working in places where I shop, etc.

    Now… there are more than 20 churches within a two-mile radius of my house, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that each of them is in a building and on a lot that is much larger than my little 1954 ranch house, but for the sake of argument, let’s say each of them would be assessed at the same $3000 annual rate of property tax that I am.  That’s over $600,000 in taxes that are NOT being paid toward schools (or anything else) due to the tax-exempt status of the churches.

    Additionally, many of those churches run private schools. Although the parents that choose to send their kids there are paying tuition, the fact remains that I am paying taxes that subsidize THOSE kids’ private education, because the churches don’t have to pay their fair share of property taxes.

    I’m quite sure that the scenario above is not unique to me or my area. So religious people bitching about having to pay for public/secular schools is simply fucking ridiculous.  I’m sure that there are more people who aren’t using the churches or private schools in their cities whose taxes are higher to make up for the taxes that aren’t levied on the properties of religious groups they don’t belong to, than there are religious folks subsidizing the public schools that are struggling mightily to properly educate their neighbors’ kids, which benefits everyone regardless of their religious associations.

    I fail to see how vouchers would address, or even play into, this issue.  Even with vouchers, the people who pay property taxes are still getting fucked because they’re having to pay more in taxes to make up for the taxes that churches and religious schools are NOT paying.  Doesn’t sound religiously neutral or fair to me!

  40. Ugh…  I decided to widen the search to churches within FIVE miles of my house, and there are ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-THREE!  At the same (lowball) $3000, that’s almost a half-million tax dollars PER YEAR that are NOT being collected for various public services, most of which I’m SURE are being utilized on a regular basis by both church administrators and congregants.

    I can only imagine how much better things would be in this area if religious groups were paying their fair share.

  41. I can only imagine how much better things would be in this area if religious groups were paying their fair share.

    Things might be materially better in the short run, OB, but that half-million bucks is buying souls for the Lord! How could you face all those kids you sent to Hell, if the tax exemption for churches were repealed?

  42. Not so fast OB.  Uour math fails to account for some factors.  When you figure up the cost of the services provided to your metro area by Catholic Charities alone, come back and tell us your math was wrong, because it is.

    The services provided by all churches in helping to care for the downtrodden far outweighs any alleged loss of property taxes.  So, the religious in your community, they are boon to you.  They feed your poor, they pay their taxes for you to send your kids to a public school, and yet underutilize those same services.  Knock the religious, but don’t feed us a line about how overtaxed you are in comparison.

  43. Consigliere, I’ve seen the consequences of some of the Catholic Church’s “kindness” upfront and personal. Yep. They can be kind. And horrible .. . . causing damage to others beyond measure.

    Just because the public isn’t outta pocket for some of this stuff doesn’t mean that there isn’t a cost to it.

    I’ve seen how they treat those who work for the church.

    I’ve seen how they treat those abused by the church.

    I’ve seen how they treat some of those who minister to the church.

    And at least here, I don’t see evidence that they contribute back anywhere near the value they receive from tax benefits.

    You’d have to go a long way to convince me of how much value they provide to the community.

  44. Consi, I will grant that the Catholic church tries to address social needs.  (Having no knowledge of the quality of Catholic services as Shelly mentions, I can’t address their cost/benefit)  But you shouldn’t have too rosy of a view of Protestant services – when they exist at all.  The bulk of Protestant funding goes right into building programs and staff salaries whose main purpose is to produce the little entertainment sessions they call “church”.

    That would be an interesting study, though.  If it could be conducted without partisan sunshine.

  45. Consigliere:  You bring up an interesting point, but you are applying what you have witnessed with a small group of churches to a whole.  You assume that every church in OB’s area have the same impact as the specific church you are reffering to.  I know that there are some churches in my area that do good things for the community.  But I also know that some don’t.

  46. Consi, just one question. How much money does the Catholic Chuch have?

    I’m not even convinced that Catholic charities are loss leaders. And what DOF said. Why don’t we have a look at the balance sheet of churches far and wide and then debate if the loss of tax revenue is fully offset by whatever it is that these churches do for the general public.

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