Faith and secularism

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nozzferrahhtoo
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Faith and secularism

Post by nozzferrahhtoo » Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:46 pm

As the elections draw near in the US I could not help but post Obamas 2006 speech on Secularism.

"Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s?

Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?

So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice.

Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences.

To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God's test of devotion.

But it's fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.

This goes for both sides.

Even those who claim the Bible's inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages - the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ's divinity - are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.

The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation - context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase "under God." I didn't.

Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs - targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers - that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen.

No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don't want faith used to belittle or to divide. They're tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that's not how they think about faith in their own lives.
DollarLama
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Post by DollarLama » Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:04 pm

Wow, I'm surprised to read that. Most of it seems quite reasonable.

Unfortunately Obama is going to lose this election by five or more percentage points so his opinions on secularism will soon be meaningless.
Ygern
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Post by Ygern » Wed Oct 29, 2008 4:19 pm

DollarLama wrote: Unfortunately Obama is going to lose this election by five or more percentage points so his opinions on secularism will soon be meaningless.
I'm not so sure about that. That's what I thought last month, now it seems like the McCain lobby is looking unhealthy.

Republicans jump ship

More Republicans jumping ship

Hitch jumps ship (or at least saunters nonchalantly over)
DollarLama
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Post by DollarLama » Wed Oct 29, 2008 6:17 pm

I think you underestimate reactionary middle America. Remember that all of the reporting we see is done by east- and west-coast liberals whose views don't correspond with the vast majority of Americans. That said, I hope I'm wrong. Obama is the least bad option for America.
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Post by FXR » Wed Oct 29, 2008 9:45 pm

Wow, reading that I'm impressed.

I was surprised yesterday to hear my Rush Limbagh fan brother who voted for and defended Gerorge Bush tells me he's going to vote for Obama.

I said to him are you kidding me?
He said no

Then I asked him how long did he think it would be before......
Less than 6 months he said.
That's where we disagreed; I think it will be about 18 months before they assasinate him.
Human communication is a very rickety rope bridge between minds. Its too narrow to allow but a few thoughts to cross at a time. Many are lost in the chasms of noise, suspicion, misinterpretation and shooting the message through dislike of the messenger.
DollarLama
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Post by DollarLama » Thu Oct 30, 2008 11:18 am

Nah, he won't get assassinated. He just won't get elected. What's the elephant in the room that nobody in the media talks about but is the first thing in every US voter's mind?
Ygern
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Post by Ygern » Thu Oct 30, 2008 11:20 am

In a talk that Neil deGrasse Tyson gave at Beyond Belief 2006, he had an interesting comment on Republicans after being a life-long Democrat who had been appointed to advise the Bush Admin on a variety of space / tech matters. His point:
Republicans do not want to die poor
And I think that while the Movers & Shakers in the Republican party are cynical enough to use religion as an emotive rallying tool when it suits them; they are also smart enough to see that the McCain + Palin duo make people nervous - and not in a good, money-generating way.
DollarLama
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Post by DollarLama » Thu Oct 30, 2008 4:16 pm

On a related topic, here's a superb opinion piece from today's Irish Times. It's worth reading the whole thing.
Irish Times wrote:Defining moment as bell tolls for fundamentalism

What must be understood about evangelical Christians is how profoundly undemocratic they are. They espouse bigotry, racism, xenophobia and contempt for the US constitution, believing (just like their Islamic counterparts) that they answer only to God. In essence, they are a Fifth Column within the world's most powerful democracy.

Their stated aim is to create a narrow theocracy. The recent crude racially tinted demonisation of Barack Obama, egged on by Palin's demagoguery, is putting down a marker that, should he prevail next Tuesday, the Christian right will never accept Obama's authority. In most countries, such views would pass for treason, but instead in the US - once the citadel of democracy - these evangelical groups get huge tax breaks and dominate the airwaves with impunity.

"Democracy is not, as these Christo-fascists claim, the enemy of faith," wrote New York Times journalist and author Chris Hedges. "Democracy keeps religious faiths in the private sphere, ensuring that all believers have an equal measure of protection and practise mutual tolerance."
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Post by inedifix » Fri Oct 31, 2008 2:59 am

DollarLama wrote:Unfortunately Obama is going to lose this election by five or more percentage points so his opinions on secularism will soon be meaningless.
I think you're in for a surprise then. Check this article out. Apparently all the voter forecast models (which are proven to be more accurate than the polls) are predicting an Obama win with c. 52% to 55% of the popular vote.

This may not translate to the same proportion of actual seats through the electoral colleges, but again, the forecasters are predicting that they'll give Obama a bump rather than a loss against his popular vote.

I
“What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can't decipher. What we can't understand we call nonsense. There is no free will. There are no variables. There is only the inevitable.” Chuck Palahniuk
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Post by lostexpectation » Fri Oct 31, 2008 4:52 am

http://www.wspa.com/spa/news/local/arti ... _ad/10464/

so too senater battling it out and one accuses the other of meeting with an atheist group in an attack ad, so the other says how dare you i'll sue you for saying im godless.....

it seems she did meet with the godless americas organisation (great name)
test
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