Wednesday, December 15, 2004

On the God Thing (2)

I received some interesting comments from BK to the last post:

BK says: 1. Hitler was not a Christian. Like many, he used Christian language to try to impassion his followers, but any legitimate reading of Hitler and any look at his action absolutely rules out the idea that he was a Christian. I have not spent much time reading up on the Catholic Church's relationship with Spain and Italy, but I sincerely doubt that it was any more than a cowardly willingness to "look the other way" rather than face attack from these very close non-Christian governments.

Reply: The data seem to be confusing whether Hitler himself should be considered a Christian. Certainly his actions were not Christian. But, consider this quote from here:
"I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.." (emphasis added)

As a boy, Hitler attended to the Catholic church and experienced the anti-Semitic attitude of his culture. In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler reveals himself as a fanatical believer in God and country.

On the other hand, apparently a group at Rutger's University has concluded that Hitler was out to destroy Christianity.

Be that as it may, I still believe that the German people considered themselves Christian (mostly Lutheran and Catholic) and there was not a lot of resistance to the regime from the organized Church.

Spain, Italy and other Fascist regimes, including those in South America, frequently have cozy relationships with the Catholic Church because, in my opinion, the power structure of fascism and the Catholic Church is the same. This is less true in the last 20-30 years. One could debate this but it is off the point.

More interesting is BK's use of the language "any legitimate reading." BK assumes that his reading is legitimate and mine is not (unless it agrees with his). This assumption carries through the rest of his post, as you will see. "I am right and you are wrong." Unfortunately, as I was attempting to show, he involves himself in a deep quandry.

BK Says: 2. He is obviously referring to public schools.

So, Mr. BK, who would the students pray to? You cannot deny that there are students in public school who are not Christian. Are they to be forced to pray to your God? Who decides which God, which prayer, and whether those who don't pray are lashed with a cat of nine tails? There IS this problem. Incidentally, many of the founding fathers were Unitarian (e.g. John Adams)!
Most people are a bit baffled about the Unitarian religion, since it doesn't have any dogma, no holy book, no 'bible', no central ecclesiastical authority figure and no ecclesiastical hierarchy - no 'Pope', no 'Cardinal', no 'Guru', no 'Spiritual Leader'

In other words, one should only enforce prayer for all children in a public school where there is a universal orthodoxy. No orthodoxy, no prayer. If you wish to have your children pray in school, send them to a parochial school. Do not use my tax dollars to support your religion.

BK says: 3. Its a difficult concept to anyone who understands that the history of this country is replete with references to God (i.e., the Christian God), and the Old Testament giving of the law in the 10 Commandments is every bit a part of that history. Setting them up in public is as legitimate of an exercise as setting up statutes of the various Greek and Roman gods (whose statutes also adorn public buildings apparently without any protest from people who demand a strict separation).

As pointed out above, many of the references were to a Unitarian God which didn't necessarily include Christianity. And, yes, there is a statue that depicts law, or rather justice. And it wasn't set up in Greece or Rome, but in Washington D.C. However, to make an analogy between the statues of gods on, say, the ascent to the Delphic Oracle, and the placement of a bronze Ten Commandments in a Southern Courthouse is stretching the point just a bit, don't you think? Again, I don't want my tax dollars supporting any religion or its accoutrements.

BK says: 4. He has a right to his opinion, and it may not be so misinformed as you may think. (For the record, I passed law school and got a license to practice law in both state and federal courts, plus I taught Constitutional law for 10 years at the undergraduate level). However, without knowing more specifically his complaints, there is little else I can add.

The truth comes out. BK is a lawyer and has taught Constitutional Law! I thought lawyers were full of things like precedents and parties of the second part (A Night at the Opera comes to mind)and codicils. In any case, I would like to hear the argument from A to B in a concise and rational manner.

BK says:5. His opinion on this point is a valid opinion which the Supreme Court has rejected in favor of a mess of contradictory opinions on the First Amendment. As far as James Madison goes, you are quoting from his writings when he was a bitter old man. His writings closer to the time of the actual writing of the Constitution (in which he had a major hand) and the writing of the First Amendment (of which he was one of the authors) reveals a point of view much more welcoming of religion into public discussion and law.

So, our beloved Supreme Court is a "mess of contraditory (sic) opinions." (Must be one of those lawyer words). And James Madison is a bitter old man.
Well, here is a quote from 1785, before the Constitution was written:
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. [Pres. James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785]

In summary, there is no cogent argument for the inclusion of religion in public life as a requirement (e.g. praying in schools). We should not require the Jewish child to pray to Christ. We should not require the Christian child to shout "Allah Akbar!" We should require neither.

It is true that our forefathers were imbued with religion. But many, particularly Jefferson, wished this to be a private affair. Making religion public, as is the case in many Muslim countries and, in some sense, India, is a recipe for disaster.

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