Sunday, October 31, 2004

Our Nation's Religious Past

(let me first apologize for the length muse was here helping me in my quest for understanding and truth).
(this writing was in reply to my brother-in-law's forwarded email. He had sent me a link (which I cannot locate) about some interesting facts about our Nation's history and how steeped in religion it is. As my brother-in-law was very interesting..-he doesn't necessarily subscribe to the theory presented either...he was just amazed with the amount of religious iconology found throughout our monuments....which is correct, but the message coveyed by the original author wanted the reader to believe that this was the basis for the current trend in religious fundementalism in our political system.....I took this to task (not my brother-in-law...cause he's awesome and I love him). So here was my reply to the email (I think it is making its way around the internet I am gonna COPYWRITE IT! (hehehe!)


I found this very interesting, yet very slanted. Yes, our great Country was founded by those persecuted for their religious beliefs...
That is why IN THE CONSTITUTION, there was a DELIBERATE separation of church and state. No where does it say that it cannot intermingle.

Remember back to history class....

The Bill of Rights..."at its inception...was not intended to protect everyone. Whole groups of people were left out. Women were seen as second-class citizens, at best." Visions of Liberty (pg. 57)

"The very language of our early declarations of principles was exclusionary. When in the Declaration of Independence the principle of equality was announced, by its own terms it was exclusionary: 'All men are created equal,' it said."
Visions of Liberty (pg. 57)

The right to vote, of course, derived in large part from property qualifications, 'All men are created equal,' excluded more than just women: it also excluded most men. The consent of the governed...[was] understood to be limited to the consent of property owners." Visions of Liberty (pg. 57)

-Property owners then changed to taxpayer qualifications, etc.....while women and African Americans were continuously denied the right to vote.

Moving on...

On the religious aspect.....
There is no escaping our religious past. I think we should embrace it. My fundamental belief is that while EMBRACING our religious past that we must LEARN from it as well.
Puritans LEFT England because they were being persecuted (for it was a crime NOT to go to the Protestant Church of England and receive the sacrament).

But what the Puritans did when they came to this great country was the same thing! "There were incidents of religious intolerance in the colonies as well. In 1637, a woman named Anne Hutchinson, who openly disagreed with the Calvinist ministers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony about how to achieve salvation, was tried for heresy, convicted, and banished to the wilderness."

The issue of God.

This one bothers me. Why? Because God has many meanings. Anyone with any religious underpinnings understands God in their own way. "In God We Trust" doesn't mean......"In [the Christian] God We Trust", "In [the Jesuit] God We Trust", "In [the Buddhist] God We Trust," "In [the Islamic] God We Trust" "In [No] God We Trust," and so on and so on.... I think you get the point. God is a term that is used "generically to be inclusive of all religions and of no religions at all." (My personal quote-thank you very much).

The Bible issue....

"One reason for the difficulty in interpreting the Bible is that the biblical authors wrote in a completely different cultural, social, economic, political, and religious world from our own. The original writers of the Bible do not try to explain that ancient world to their readers. They assume their readers know all about it. It must be discovered anew by modern readers, not for the purpose of retreating back into it, but in order to know what is being said. Moreover, their manner of thinking and expressing themselves was Eastern (more precisely, Semitic), not Western as is ours." (Good News Bible, Catholic Study Edition, pg. xx-xxi) In other words... THINK PEOPLE! Understand what is being read...and in what CONTEXT.....The Literal reading of the BIBLE will guide people to confusion and broad, overbearing, unbelievable beliefs.....(let the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, or your own personal divine being guide you into understanding! Don't be blinded by the ancient writings and not understand the truer concepts...)

As far as the 10 Commandments....
That is not a Christian doctrine per se. Why? Because that was in the OLD TESTAMENT, before Christ.....

If you look at this historically (and here is where I will take a bit of license), the great Old Testament was full of wonderful stories (honestly, can you really believe that all of that happened???) that explained to many how to live their lives (much in the way that fables teach children lessons). There were these wonderful things called the Commandments.......and really, they are GOOD! I can actually say- if removed from its religious connotations, they can have themselves FIRMLY planted in modern society as words to live by live live completely.

The First 3 Commandments (the ones I have the hardest time with from an historical perspective) govern the relationship between God and humans...
-graven images
-Day of Rest (Sabbath)
-acts of worship
-acts of charity

Commandments 4,5,6,7, and 8....those are the BEST ones....because they are the heart of leading a healthy life...and govern public relationships between people. Getting along....pretty simple.
-Honor your Father and Mother
-Not Killing
-Not committing Adultery
-Don't Steal
-Don't Bear False Witness

Finally Commandments 9,10 govern private thoughts...again pretty simple and easy to understand
-Coveting your neighbors wife (but I guess if you covet the neighbor's husband you are ok)
-Keeping up with the Jone's (you know...desire of what your neighbor/friend/other person has and you want)
With the exception of 1, 2, and 3...these Commandments can be lifted from their RELIGIOUS underpinnings and placed in a secular world and be fully accepted as basic and understood (by most)

It is therefore fitting, under these circumstances that you would find these HISTORICAL (NOT religious) artifacts adorning our judicial and governmental buildings.

On to James Madison.....
he also stated, "the real danger to liberty in any society, comes from the ultimate source of power. In America, the real power lies with the majority of the people. The invasion of individual rights is likely to come not from a legislature that is out of step with its constituents, but from a legislature acting as an 'instrument' of popular majorities.

He called this the tyranny of the majority. "A bill of rights might be useful in restraining the power of a king, but I have little faith in its ability to restrain the tyranny of the majority in a democracy."

Thomas Jefferson answers this by stating, "Once established, a bill of rights would provide the legal basis for an independent judiciary to strike down majoritarian excesses by ruling unconstitutional any legislative or executive act that violated individual rights as defined in the Constitution. Such legislative acts, even if committed in response to majority opinion, could be declared null and void by the courts. A bill of rights would put a powerful 'legal check' into the hands of the judiciary, provided it remained safely independent of the other branches of government." (Visions of Liberty, pg 42-43)

humm...sounds like a case for the gay marriage issue, doesn't it?

Although the American revolution was fought against British tyranny, there was another tyranny to be avoided according to Madison. "Whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced to the very definition of tyranny." His point? The accumulation of all powers in the same hands....doesn't matter whose hands....religious, white, black, pro-this, anti-that...whatever.....the concentration of power in a few hands is crippling to everyone in a representative one way or another.

He went on to say that in a heterogeneous community, the majority may not represent all competing interests. The majority is likely to be self-interested and ignorant or indifferent to the concerns of the minority. In such case, the assumption that the majority represents the minority is 'altogether fictitious." (Tyranny of the Majority, p. 2-3)

So by quoting Madison as listed in the prior email.....there is a question as to the validity of this statement. Sure, Madison may well have meant what he was quoted as saying "we have staked the whole of our political......" and so on....but the MAJORITY of Madison's feelings were etched in his belief that NO MAJORITY shall have control over the minority.

Using this single statement to justify the rights of a majority (in this case, Christians) to instill God and religion into everyone's lives through the Constitution, laws, beliefs (as in "well, he said it so it must be true"...or, "it's always been this way")....does not hold up to Madison's belief that the minority needed to be PROTECTED from the tyranny of the majority, no matter what the cost.

However, it is like anything...too much can be strangling. My fear - as I see coming true, is that there are those in the government (and in our society at large) that believe that we should remain focused solely on our religious underpinnings, devoid of fairness and understanding of those that do not subscribe to those beliefs.

Whether it is with malice of forethought or plain blind faith, the failure to recognize and appreciate the differences in each other will lead to the downfall of this great democracy. I do not suggest that we forego our religious beliefs, but instead, keep them in check, close to our hearts, and not blind ourselves to the truer meaning of democracy and the ideals that our Founding Fathers left us. It is not our religious beliefs that make us a great is the acceptance and understanding of those beliefs and the beliefs of our fellow citizens that make us a great nation.

The failure to recognize that each individual in this country has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...not on the basis of religion or the Bible...but endowed by our Creator (whomever you choose to believe it is) leads us down the road that Madison warned us about so many years ago. The Tyranny of the Majority.

I could go on and on.....but I hope that everyone at least has a new perspective in which to ponder. My hope for the future of this country is that EVERYONE can participate in the process (to get married -the pursuit of happiness, to be free of bondage, etc...) only then can this country truly be the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.

Thank you all for your time. Your Feedback is appreciated.

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