Can atheists and theists find common ground on Church-State Separation?

EverLastingGodS...
Posts: 84
Joined: 2006-02-12
User is offlineOffline
Can atheists and theists find common ground on Church-State Separation?

I'm working on an article now in which I want to reach out to atheists to encourage them to work side-by-side with theists on church-state separation issues. What are your views? Where can we find common ground? How can we work together on secular issues?

Let me know what you think!


Brian37
atheistSuperfan
Brian37's picture
Posts: 13536
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is onlineOnline
I think everyone who has

I think everyone who has had experiance reading my posts knows that I am a no holds barred person when it comes to blasphmey in either direction. I do not take a "Dont pick on me" approach to law.

Having said that, I do know that one cannot legislate morality on their neighbor. It all amounts to common law.

I know that a theist would not want to live under a goverment that banned religion. I also know that an atheist would not want to live under a goverment that banned denial of god.

"POOF" there you have your common ground!

It amounts to human disire. We can agree that we, even amoungst our own particular labels, will not agree. So beyond that we seek common law.

It is already in place. "Dont harm someone physically and dont take away their property or means of supporting themselves"

The problem between believers and other believers and non-believers, is that when a dissagreement occures, the "pov" or point of view, does not take into account background or even common ground"

I can see as an atheist how believers flock together in the same way atheists flock together. What we have to do is not silence the other, but agree that no matter how heated things get, we dont have to kill or arrest each other.

What frustrates people like Bin Laden and Pat Robertson is that more and more people are not seeing differances as an excuse to divide, but an oportunity to break stereotypes.

If the existance of a deity were in the same catigory of a WWE match as a Super Bowl title, all of this bluster would not have to lead to death.

Maybe when Jews, Muslims and Christians can drink a beer and trash talk without killing each other, then, maybe then I'd stop calling religion a needless bloodbath over an invisable penis.

Skeptic, "You have a booger on your nose"

Believer, "You hate me!"

Skeptic, "No, I just wish you'd get rid of it"

 

 

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37


Vessel
Vessel's picture
Posts: 646
Joined: 2006-03-31
User is offlineOffline
I'm not sure that common

I'm not sure that common ground can be reached. The problem is that theists of many denominations see their god as the source of all law. With this being the case, to try and remove their god from the law is an impossible undertaking. True seperation of church and state is only possible when government officials are willing to set aside their personal belief in a deity of whatever persuasion and govern and legislate from a purely secular ethical and moral system. When this ethical and moral system comes into contradiction with one of the commandments or tenets of their religion, it would be necessary for them to disregard the perceived wishes of their deity. This, obviously, is not the way things work today and I don't think it is realistic to think the religious would ever find this an acceptable way to govern.

This is one of the things I struggle with in finding political candidates to support here in the states, especially in my state of Mississippi. I have always supported democrats as the lesser of two undesirable realistic possibilities. But lately, with many democrats expressing their theistic beliefs in the public forum as a way of grabbing a foothold in such a ridiculously religious nation, it is getting to the point where there is no 'more desireable' between the two parties. This kind of move to appeal to the theistic hordes can have no affect but to diminish any checks and balances we as the citizenry have had against the legislation of religious (specifically Christian) ideals. So, it seems to me that at the present any hope for any real seperation of church and state is a distant and diminishing goal.

Did that sound pessimistic? 

“Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have always known it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek" -- Tom Robbins


EverLastingGodS...
Posts: 84
Joined: 2006-02-12
User is offlineOffline
Realistic is not

Realistic is not pessimistic.  I appreciate the honesty and advice in both posts.  Thank you!  Anything else you can think of, please add.


MrRage
Posts: 896
Joined: 2006-12-22
User is offlineOffline
One of the best thought out

One of the best thought out cases for church-state separation I heard from a baptist preacher, believe it or not.

For a church the first amendment guarantees that the government can not tell them how to structure their church and what they're to believe. Any power a church gains in the government might someday be used to govern them against their will.

So, to rephrase what Brian37 said, if churches don't want to be told what to do and believe, they shouldn't tell us what to do and believe.


Tilberian
Moderator
Tilberian's picture
Posts: 1118
Joined: 2006-11-27
User is offlineOffline
Real theists, that is,

Real theists, that is, theists that are more interested in worship than money and power, should be the strongest proponents of separation of Church and State!  If living a sin-free life is about free will, as we are told it is, then why a church would want to legislate people to live according to their creed is beyond me.  If someone won't voluntarily obey god's law, aren't they doomed to hell anyway, quite aside from whether they are forced to comply or not? 

 Given than state power has nothing positive to offer true religion, that leaves only  the negatives of state involvement: control, regulation, oppression and the possibility of a grab for church money.  Religions down through history have been rightly suspicious of close ties to the State for just these reasons.  What has changed today?

 What has changed is the resurgence of an American brand of fundamentalism that draws heavily on capitalist ideals of competition, salesmanship and consumerism to propagate itself.  Many preachers today can get mighty rich by pushing the reactionary buttons in their flock and getting them involved politically as well as (instead of?) spiritually. 

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown


blgarcia (not verified)
Posts: 4294964979
Joined: 1969-12-31
User is offlineOffline
Many believe that separation

Many believe that separation of church and state means that people must abandon their religious (or theistic) assumptions prior to governing.  However, I cannot agree with that.The atheist isn't asked to abandon their atheistic assumptions prior to governing and neither should the theist be asked to abandon their theism.  The separation of church and state should protect the government from being run by organized religion and should protect organized religion from being run by the government.It's false t say that government can be completely neutral.  So long as the government is made up of people with worldviews, then the government is subject to the worldview of those whom are our elected representatives.
That's partly why I don't think there can be much middle groundi the church/state issue.  The atheist, to be consistent with their beliefs, must act as an atheist, and the theist, to be consistent with their beliefs must be a theist.  
Even more, like has been said earlier, many theists believe that morality is grounded in God (Divine Command theory is one good example).
Brandon


Tilberian
Moderator
Tilberian's picture
Posts: 1118
Joined: 2006-11-27
User is offlineOffline
blgarcia wrote: The

blgarcia wrote:
The atheist isn't asked to abandon their atheistic assumptions prior to governing and neither should the theist be asked to abandon their theism.
The problem with this statement is that it puts atheism in the same philosophical category as theism.  It isn't.  Atheism is the opposite of theism, not just a different kind of theism.  Your statement would be valid if you were talking about hindus and christians.  The idea of separation of church and state is that the state is not run according to the tenets of any particular religion.  It is atheistic - no input from god, no matter what it's called.  Separation of church and state demands that everyone govern like atheists, whether they are in their private lives or not. 
blgarcia wrote:
It's false t say that government can be completely neutral.  So long as the government is made up of people with worldviews, then the government is subject to the worldview of those whom are our elected representatives.
We don't drop an ideal just because it isn't attainable by flawed human beings.  Objective reporting of the news is probably impossible.  Do we then throw up our hands and allow journalists to just make up whatever they want to say?  Separation of church and state is an ideal that politicians should try to observe.  At least they should refrain from invoking god as a reason for legislating a particular way on an issue.
 
blgarcia wrote:
 That's partly why I don't think there can be much middle groundi the church/state issue.  The atheist, to be consistent with their beliefs, must act as an atheist, and the theist, to be consistent with their beliefs must be a theist.  
Again, this is a false corollary because the atheist has no particular beliefs informing their actions.  To the extent possible, governing should be informed by supported facts and not individual beliefs. 
blgarcia wrote:
 
Even more, like has been said earlier, many theists believe that morality is grounded in God (Divine Command theory is one good example).
Brandon

Governing should not be about morality.  Moral decisions should be left to individuals to the extent possible.  Any time a politician invokes morality, I start to cringe.  Governing decisions should be made on the basis of pragmatic need for social order and shy away from moral issues whereever possible.

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
- Dr. Joy Brown


EverLastingGodS...
Posts: 84
Joined: 2006-02-12
User is offlineOffline
I have to dosagree with you

I have to disagree with you here. Secularism is not atheism. Separation between church and state refers to government neutrality on religion. Right now, we have a de facto theocracy, evidenced by a faith statement on the official legal tender of the nation, and the faith statement in our national motto. The deity referred to is capital-G "God," the deity worshipped in Judaism and Christianity. Allah and Brahma are not mentioned. However, if "the majority religion" is advocated by government, as it is now, other religions might enjoy the spotlight.

 

Secularism is nothing but neutrality. It is not favoritism. Just because the government is neutral on religion does not mean that the government is "atheistic."


Brian37
atheistSuperfan
Brian37's picture
Posts: 13536
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is onlineOnline
EverLastingGodStopper

EverLastingGodStopper wrote:

I have to disagree with you here. Secularism is not atheism. Separation between church and state refers to government neutrality on religion. Right now, we have a de facto theocracy, evidenced by a faith statement on the official legal tender of the nation, and the faith statement in our national motto. The deity referred to is capital-G "God," the deity worshipped in Judaism and Christianity. Allah and Brahma are not mentioned. However, if "the majority religion" is advocated by government, as it is now, other religions might enjoy the spotlight.

 

Secularism is nothing but neutrality. It is not favoritism. Just because the government is neutral on religion does not mean that the government is "atheistic."

Thank you GS. 

The fearmongers on the right have unfortunatly waged an effect propaganda war in media such as Fox that even some in the Christian left are buying the " secularism is evil atheism" garbage.

www.au.org is full of a variety of beliefs and non-believers who see what the founders did. That freedom can only exist when goverment keeps its hands off religion and religion keeps its hands off goverment. 

Secularism is not a demand to end religion or stop people from worshiping. It merely means, "On your own time with your own dime".

Brian Sapeint has stated that he will keep going untill the end of religion.

HOWEVER, this is no different than Christians saying, "Spread the word around the world"

BUT, there are plenty of Christians and atheists no matter the goal, that it is not done by goverment gun, goverment tax, or goverment law. Religion or lack of cannot be forced by goverment on an individual.

When Brian speeks of the end of religion, and most atheist would agree, mean through the free market and exchange of ideas. Atheists should be and most I know are confident enough in their positions, as they should be, and dont need a facist one party rule state to force the end of religion. 

When one thinks seriously about absurd super natural claims, from Vampires, to Leprichans to talking donkeys, we see the super natural as nothing more than human emagination.

BUT having said that, the vast majority of atheists I know would not seek goverment opression of religion and their are pleanty of Jews, Muslims and Christians along with other labels who do see the clear and present danger of religion mixing with politics in the Middle East as well as Fundementalism fueling American politics as well.

The only acceptable outcome if we are to survive as a species and get along is to only default to free inquery, free speech and debate without dictation or opression when we hear things we dont like.

With freedom comes responsibility. When the theist or atheist takes office BOTH have a duty to the constitution, not just the constituants or special interest.

Religion isnt going anywhere by force and neither are atheists. But, I think secularists of all labels need to take back that word and stop the lying propaganda.

 

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under BrianJames Rational Poet also on twitter under Brianrrs37


EverLastingGodS...
Posts: 84
Joined: 2006-02-12
User is offlineOffline
Thanks RRS!

I want to thank the RRS community for giving me your opinions and feedback on the subject of atheists and theists working together on church-state separation.

 

The article I wrote was accepted by Americans United for Separation of Church and State  (http://au.org) for publication.  It is also reposted with permission in the Secular Spice column on DangerousTalk.net (see links in my signature).  But you can get a sneak peek here, because I have a little blog where I post the Secular Spice essays before sending them to DangerousTalk.

 

Link: http://secularspice.blogspot.com/2007/01/atheism-aside-separation-supporters.html

 

Here is the entire text (it's an AU piece but I have the copyright).

 

Atheism Aside: Separation Supporters Should Seek Solidarity

Fight theocracy, not faith

By Janice Rael, January 2007. Written for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, http://au.org

The battle to preserve the wall of separation between church and state is being waged by many individuals and groups who hold varying positions on religion and its role in society. But all First Amendment advocates can find common ground in regards to religion’s role in government. We agree that the government should be neutral toward religion. And no matter what our personal beliefs are, we can, and should, join forces to preserve America’s freedom of religion.

Some view separation of church and state as an “atheist” agenda item, but many people of faith are also involved in the church-state movement. These people realize that a secular government protects their right to worship as they see fit. Keeping the government out of the God business helps all of us to be free to hold whatever religious belief -- or nonbelief -- we wish, and will prevent taxpayers from having an obligation to finance religious institutions.

Unfortunately, the anti-religion rhetoric of some groups that work to defend the separation of church and state can often frighten the faithful, and turn them against our message. Not only is it contrary to the goal of increasing public support for separation, it’s simply unnecessary. Regardless of our perspective, we all benefit from separation of church and state. This is why atheists and theists must join forces, working together to put an end to the government’s entanglement with religion.

Those who oppose separation portray church-state activists as being anti-religion, but the fact is, most of us just want to put an end to government advocacy of religion. But we cannot do this on our own, and we cannot waste time debating theism, when we need to devote our energies to ensuring democracy rather than theocracy.

When talking about church-state separation, we need to use diplomatic language, and refrain from judgment. People of faith need the freedom to pursue what they feel is a personal relationship with God. Nonbelievers deserve the same consideration to be free from religious pressure. Both atheists and theists can agree that the government should not play a role in how citizens relate to the divine.

Another area of common ground we may share with each other is agreement that the government should not impose itself in church business. Yet, the creation of new policies, such as Federal Faith-Based Funding, sets a dangerous precedent. Currently, this program operates without oversight, leaving taxpayers in the dark. As more and more citizens demand accountability of how these funds are used, the government will be forced to follow its own guidelines, requiring grant recipients to adhere to civil rights and equal-opportunity laws, which may compromise religious beliefs. When the wall of separation is breached, religions suffer, losing their autonomy, and easily becoming embroiled in bureaucracy.

The only way to ensure equality and fairness for all citizens is to maintain a secular government. Sadly, some people don’t understand that “secular” means “neutral.” They are misinformed, by political pundits or by preachers, that secularism implies atheism. But neutrality is not hostility. A secular state is a neutral state, one that neither promotes nor inhibits religion. The government should not tell people that there is no God, any more than it should tell people that a god exists. Belief or disbelief in God must remain a personal decision, not a government decree.

It can be difficult to discuss church-state separation with some, for they feel that law originates from the divine. We need to reinforce the fact that the laws of the United States are based on the Constitution. Those who support separation must send the message that we’re not trying to exclude religion: we’re trying to prevent the government from favoring one faith over another. We must reach out to the religious, explaining how mingling religion with government has a price. The government should not tell us what to believe, or when and how to pray. The state should not dictate church operations.

Beliefs are irrelevant in the church-state realm. All Americans must set aside their personal views and join with one another to maintain the wall of separation. We must work together to preserve our Constitutional rights, and get our government out of the God business. No matter how you answer the “God question,” you should surely cherish your right to determine your own decision without pressure from politicians.

If our Nation’s Founders had intended for the Federal government to endorse a particular faith, they would have included it in the Constitution. Instead, they chose to keep religion and government separate, to ensure freedom of conscience for all citizens, reinforcing this ideal in the First Amendment. It is up to us, regardless of belief, to work together to preserve our right to religious liberty.

Janice Rael is the President of the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which serves the greater Philadelphia region: http://www.dvau.org