"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."

-- Thomas Jefferson


Jesus H. Christ!!  I cannot believe that the Supreme Court is AGAIN about to debate the legitimacy of the spouting of religious BS in governmental settings.  WHY have we not got this resolved by now?  It's not as if several prominent Founders weren't atheists - do you think they would have agreed to a religious state?

Anyway, here were are in 2013 arguing what should have been decided long ago, except that the weight of tradition is very heavy, and religious people, in smug possession of the truth, won't quit.  Inertia, ignorance and stubbornness -- bad combination.

It's bad enough that the Court itself begins sessions with "God save blah, blah, blah..."  Or that in the past (Warren Burger), the Court has indeed upheld "opening invocations that call for God's blessing."  Now it's down to town councils, which are aggressively Christian.  A Jew and an atheist brought legal action, as well they should, but here the logic splits.

O'Connor's "endorsement" test

Sandra Day O'Connor had it right when she said that the government must not appear, to a reasonable observer, to be "endorsing a religion."  The overtly Christian crap crosses that line.  But later courts have allowed religious expression without requiring everyone to participate.

What kind of hair-splitting is that?  Non-Christians are allowed to walk out?  Or wear ear plugs?

The logic splits between the Jewish and the atheistic protestor.  The former's goal is easy to achieve: allow other religions to take the platform.  Slippery slope, though.  Christian prayers are benign.  What if a Muslim kid gets up and calls for jihad?  What if one kid is a Haitian immigrant and believes in voodoo?

Linguistic nits

There are two linguistic nuances in O'Connor's formulation.  One is that "endorse" is vague. There are invocations that call for God's blessing (supposedly not endorsing a religion), and ones that pray in the name of Jesus (endorsing a religion).  I think O'Connor would be OK with the vanilla, God-centered prayer.

This brings us to the second nuance, the indefinite article "a."  Prohibiting "endorsing a religion" does not go far enough.  This is a secular country.  Unbelievers are at least a sixth - more than Jews or Wicccans.

The state must not endorse religion, period.

So at the very least, a humanist meditation or even an articulate argument against God should be included at the beginning, along with the series of religious messages.  You could do it in the same length as -- or shorter than -- those windy, boring "God grant us..." orations.  

So one possibilitby is that the other side could be heard at the beginning of the town meeting (or of the Supreme Court, if they wanted to), to the outrage of many, no doubt.  Anger is the only response that many ignorant religious people can muster to the honest questioning of their fantasies.

CFI and the other secular organizations should be all over this, if they aren't already.  I know the Secular Coalition is active on it.

Wanna scream

Sometimes even smart Americans are so ignorant I want to scream.  The Supremes are like the Flatlanders who can't comprehend that there's a third dimension: no religion at all.  Yes!  The state could appear to be endorsing no religion at all!  Just call the damned meeting to order.

Has that not occurred to anyone in the government?  Or is religion so deeply entrenched that no politician would dare challenge it?


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Comment by Alan Perlman on November 10, 2013 at 9:12pm

The USSR had it half-right: no religion (but it was a police state, substituting the government for religion).  I was there in 1963 and visited The Museum of the History of Religion, on Nevsky Prospekt in (then) Leningrad.  effectively documenting religious persecution and murder down through the ages, including life-size replicas of Inquisition torture devices (or maybe they were the real thing). Could there be such a museum in the US?

The godlessness of communism, as much as any other factor, fueled Americans' hatred of the USSR throughout the Cold War.

I like hard-ass atheists like you.  Hold a mirror up to religion and don't back down.  We're never gonna change 'em, so f*** 'em. 

Comment by Dustin Roy on November 10, 2013 at 5:43am

If I were the leader of a country I would destroy all churches and punish all thieving priests and nuns for free, waste of time, money and valuable economic resources. Churches don't create jobs, they spread lies and thieve from the vulnerable and poor. It's a gathering of harlots, murderers and paedophiles. To be successful in life you need your personal ingenuity, not some damn divine intervention who steals and lies to you all the time. People think I'm too hard on these church-going cretins, well, is being a lying, stealing and murdering paedophile any better? No! That is the main thing I credit Joseph Stalin for: destroying all churches and sending all lying paedophile priests and nuns to the gulags.

Comment by Alan Perlman on November 7, 2013 at 8:08pm

Rich, I don't know the novel, but the way things are going, religion may be the death of us. 

Islam is a uniquely dangerous threat beause it advocates world domination (so do a lot of Christians, with their end-times crap, and even Jews, but they're not about to act on it).  Car bomb or stolen nuke exploding in Times Square?   Only a matter of time.

The conflicts that threaten the world are based on and/or driven by religion -- yes, and the faith that God or Messiah will fix it all, according to plan.  But it IS up to us to fix it, and too few have gotten the message.

Politicians are followers, not leaders.  As long as the electorate is religious, we'll have God on the coins and in the Courts.  Shit, even my totally secular alma mater had "In Deo Speramus" as its motto.  I should tell them, change your motto and I'll contribute.

Comment by Rich Goss on November 7, 2013 at 10:44am

The state must not endorse religion, period. >>>


Right on, Alan, as we used to say in Brooklyn, “this shit’s gotta stop.”


It’s dangerous for one thing.  What’s the novel in high school where the townspeople all run into the church to escape some calamity, and then a fire starts and they all die at once?  Something like that.


Humans are exploiting nature to the brink of collapse and God isn’t going to be around when it hits the fan.  “God will provide” is bull.  We’re alone and the universe is indifferent to us.  Lawmakers have to quit this God nonsense and start worrying about the infrastructure, poor people, education and most importantly Gaia.


One more thing, with all the money congresspersons receive in salary and benefits, is praying what we get back?  We’re paying them to mumble boogety-boo incantations. 



Comment by Alan Perlman on November 5, 2013 at 9:41pm

Peter...I am (somewhat) pleased by the progress of secularism in this most religious of countries. Canada is far ahead.  I cannot imagine a political party in the US such as you describe.  After all, it was in this great land that $27 milllion came together to build a Museum of Creationism.

Comment by Peter Martin Page on November 5, 2013 at 7:00pm

In Canada, we now have an option of supporting a party that wishes to get religion out of government. The freedom party states " The Government has no authority other than that delegated to it by the people it serves. A Freedom government will eliminate official prayer in the Ontario legislature. Freedom Party, defending democracy." 

There are other policies that will appeal to Atheists. I suggest you look up the Freedom Party of Ontario and Paul McKeever. Atheism is growing.

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