Saturday, July 15, 2006

Those silly Christians

Religious taxidermy

Beleaguered Christians must be breathing a sigh of relief at this small victory in their frantic defense against the great War on Christianity. A judge on the U.S. District Court decided not to act against the national motto “In God we trust.”

From the June 17, 2006, Letters to The Bee:

Amen to ‘In God we trust’

Re “Judge upholds ‘In God we trust’,” June 13: U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr.'s decision that the motto “In God we trust” has “nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion” has three cogent implications. It implies that “God” is not exclusive to any one religion, that “God” can be viewed as the source of all religions and that no one person or religion speaks for God. I would say this is a monumental decision to which we can all say, “Amen.”

Burt Wilson, Sacramento

I do not for a moment question Mr. Wilson's sincerity, but I question what he is celebrating. Damrell's ruling is just another instance of the acceptance of the “ceremonial deism” argument, which faithful Christians should actually disdain. The idea is that public affirmations of such religious sentiments as “In God we trust” are basically meaningless—superficially devout but in reality leached of all significance. Wikipedia provides the following brief definition:

Ceremonial deism is a legal term used in the United States for nominally religious statements and practices deemed to be merely ritual and nonreligious through long customary usage.

Examples include reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance, and In God We Trust on U.S. money.

Those Christians who don't like living in a secular society think that they can use their majority status to compell the adoption of their favorite words and symbols in public life. They feel put upon—indeed, warred against—whenever the judiciary frustrates their attempts to privilege their sectarian interests. The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic organization, in 1952 adopted the goal of inserting “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Although they were initially unsuccessful, the Knights and other religious lobbyists were able to take advantage of that brief period when President Eisenhower enjoyed a Republican majority in Congress. The Pledge was amended in 1954. (Today's “defenders” of the Pledge conveniently forget that it was a secular composition by socialist Francis Bellamy.)

The simple fact remains that religious practices are drained of their content whenever they are imposed on those who do not share the associated belief system. The wall of separation between church and state is as much a wall of protection as anything else. It not only protects the state from undue entanglement in religious matters, it certainly protects religion from the state. Is there any better way of killing a religion than making it part of the civil government? I doubt it. Devout Christians should blanch at the notion of the United States being “officially Christian,” as this would most assuredly turn the practice of that faith into mere lip service. Do you want your beliefs stuffed and mounted for public display, a dead thing on a pedestal? This has happened before, in matters great and small. Religionists should beware.

And with that I bid you goodbye—which, by the way, used to mean “God be with you,” but has long since become an empty and conventional salutation that atheists can use as casually as the most fervent believer.

You've been warned!

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