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My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism
Misunderstandings about secularists and secularism do a disservice to America, says Jacques Berlinerblau.
October 6th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: The five biggest misconceptions about secularism

By Jacques Berlinerblau, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jacques Berlinerblau is associate professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. His book, How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom has just been released.

As far as the Republicans are concerned, President Barack Obama is secularism’s go-to guy in Washington. Newt Gingrich refers to him as a “secular-socialist.” Mitt Romney charges that his opponent advocates a “secular agenda.” And Rick Santorum frets that Obama is imposing “secular values” on “people of faith.”

The president, however, seems not to have received the whole him-being-a-secularist memo. American secularists have thrown up their hands in frustration over his supersizing of George W. Bush’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. They roll their eyes at his God talk. As for his recent call for days of “prayer and remembrance” to commemorate 9/11, well, would the late Rev. Jerry Falwell have done it any differently?

After spending years trying to sequence the genome of American secularism, I have arrived at a sobering conclusion: no -ism is as misunderstood as this one. All of which is bad for secularists, secularism and America. Let’s look at some of the biggest misconceptions out there:

1. Secularist: Just another word for atheist: Not true! But that doesn’t mean there is any thing wrong with nonbelievers. Nor does it mean that secularists and atheists don’t share scads of objectives in common (e.g., opposing religious establishment, securing freedom from religion, defending free expression).

American secularism’s roots can be traced to Christian political philosophy (yes, you read that correctly). Its main architects were Protestant thinkers like Martin Luther, Roger Williams, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson.

What evolved was a political worldview deeply suspicious of entanglements between what these gentlemen called “the civil and ecclesiastical authorities.” They asked: “How can we configure our government so that citizens of different religious groups may all live in equality, peace and order?”

Atheists, by contrast, posit the nonexistence of God(s) and proceed to explore the implications of that intriguing premise. Let’s put it this way: While nearly all atheists in America are secularists, not all secularists are atheists. In fact most secularists are not atheists — but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

2. Secularism simply means total separation of church and state: Separationism is, undeniably, a form of secularism. But not the only form. Secularists need to accept this, if only because more and more state and federal governments are giving separationism the old heave-ho.

As conservative Christians like to point out, the Constitution never mentions separationism. That idea surfaces in Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he lauded “a wall of separation between Church & State.” It was not, however, until about a century and a half later that the wall was actually built. This occurred in a series of stunning Supreme Court decisions that briskly evicted religion from public schools and spaces.

The separationist worldview crested in the 1960s and 1970s. When John F. Kennedy talked about a country where the “separation of church and state is absolute,” he articulated post-World War II liberalism’s dream. Or delusion. Even Supreme Court justices whose decisions helped erect  Jefferson’s Wall conceded that total separation is impossible to attain.

That is because the United States is historically and culturally Christian. We rest on Sundays. We close federal offices on Christmas. We put the word “God” on our coinage. Most citizens are believers. The state cannot logically “separate” from them. As Justice William Douglas - no foe of secularism - once remarked, total separation would mandate that, “Municipalities would not be permitted to render police or fire protection to religious groups.”

Government and religious citizenry are entangled. This doesn’t mean we should endorse those entanglements. Rather, we must recognize separationist secularism as something extraordinarily difficult to achieve.

3. Secularism is for Democrats: This was increasingly true with each passing decade from the 1960s forward. But after John Kerry’s debilitating loss to George W. Bush in 2004, all of that changed. Party strategists now recognized the power of the so-called “values voters” — the conservative Christians whose energy and activism propelled the incumbent to his second term.

A few months before Kerry’s defeat, an obscure state senator named Barack Obama blew the roof off the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a speech in which he intoned: “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States.” It was a harbinger of things to come. By the 2006 midterms, stories leaked about Democratic consultants who advised candidates never to say “separation of church and state” on the stump.

By 2008, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were Bible-thumpin’ with aplomb. Presidential candidate Obama, for his part, was promising to renovate George W. Bush’s faith-based Office. Separationist secularism, long in decline, was about to be rolled. What replaced it? Read on.

4. Secularists don’t make accommodations: Although few have noticed it, the Democrats have pivoted from “separation” to “accommodation.” This means the government can fund or assist religion; it just can’t play favorites. Thus, all religions are equal in the eyes of the faith-friendly state.

Is this approach secular? The jury is still out. Accommodation does respect the First Amendment principle of refraining from federal establishment of religion.

Consider the White House faith-based office. In theory, it funds all religious groups who provide social services (hence no establishment). In practice, however, things have not worked out so well (see complaints against both the Bush and Obama offices). Further, accommodation doesn’t really accommodate or take into account nonbelieving citizens.

5. Secularists are anti-religious: In recent years some have made secularism into a synonym for godlessness, possibly because a few extreme atheist groups have taken to calling themselves “secular.” Yet the idea that believers cannot be secular is incorrect and politically disastrous.

Secularism, as noted above, was born of Christian thought. Historically, its greatest champions have been those opposed to state support of one church or religious institution, such as Baptists, Protestant dissenters, and minorities including Jews, Catholics, Sikhs and others.

Secularism’s mission is to maximize freedom of and freedom from religion. But unless we start speaking of it in precise terms, and bringing secular believers and nonbelievers into coalition, it won’t be able to render this service to America.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jacques Berlinerblau.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Church and state • Courts • Politics

soundoff (1,517 Responses)
  1. hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

    Majority does not hold any sway over truth. absolute, but every one is subordinated to La. truth absolute GOD, including Judges of Supreme court, denial of truth absolute is nothing but hinduism, denial of truth absolute, hinduism, crime against truth absolute GOD and his humanity. Way of hindu Jew's, criminal secular's to divide humanity through hindu criminal mechanism of hinduism, system of cast system.supreme court rightfully closed the door on hinduism, corruption of truth absolute called religion's but have never closed door on truth absolute GOD to be out of any thing, Any one living by corruption of truth absolute religion's is a hindu, out law, deserving to be charged for treason. hinduism, absurdity called religion's are handy work of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, secular's, otherwise known as Atheism or Judaism, never believed in truth absolute but division of truth absolute to justify hindu criminal king's and their hindu sanatan's, criminal goon's as man god's to deny humanity their gentile, slaves.please visit limitisthetruth.com and click on word Choice on website to open file.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • FillaTX

      Huh?

      October 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  2. thanks

    for the many courteous and informative comments here

    October 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  3. Rodney

    The author is bound to learn a few more misconceptions about secularism by reading these comments.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      LOL! nail on the head.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Edwin

      Nicely put. I found the article interesting and informative. I do not know if I agree with everything the author said, but I acknowledge that he is well-studied in the area - so his arguments are stronger than mine.

      Most Americans, sadly, do not trust or believe experts. We now live in a society where the opinion of an uneducated brain-addled moron is considered just as valuable as the opinion of someone who spent their whole life studying a concept. Not that there is anything wrong with being uneducated, or even a moron, but we SHOULD recognize that the person who spent time studying something actually KNOWS more. They *might* not be right, but we shouldn't dismiss their ideas just because they don't agree with ours.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "but I acknowledge that he is well-studied in the area – so his arguments are stronger than mine."

      bad bad logic. because someone is studied on a subject doesn't mean they can't be wrong. and you can find plenty of experts that disagree with one another, sometimes with hundreds of views on the same subject - like religion. all the experts can't be right if they have opposing views. so YOUR logic is bad. experts can be wrong. experts often disagree with each other.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  4. asdf

    Just too many of these so called scholars. As Popper will say most of these arguments are about neither camp know what the other camp is talking about, in this case secularism. People talk and argue as if they all have a common and clear definition of secularism, where in fact there isn't, can this very educated-well read-imposing "scholar" provide one first before he goes off with his five spectacular 5 points?

    October 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • TommyTT

      Not sure what your problem is with this article. Each of the five points are well-known fallacies commonly believed about secularism. Sure, there are varieties of secularism (as with any ism), but the atheist, religion-destroying baloney is often heard in the land.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  5. Bootyfunk

    "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."
    - James Madison, 1803

    October 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Don't assume that Madison meant the same thing as atheists today. Madison was referring to the domination of one Christian sect over another, primarily, Catholic states vs. Protestant. Are you familiar with the Inquistion?

      October 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Don't assume that Madison meant the same thing as atheists today. Madison was referring to the domination of one Christian sect over another, primarily, Catholic states vs. Protestant. Are you familiar with the Inquisition?

      October 7, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "Don't assume that Madison meant the same thing as atheists today. Madison was referring to the domination of one Christian sect over another, primarily, Catholic states vs. Protestant. Are you familiar with the Inquisition?:

      sounds like you're the only one making an assumption. isn't it obvious he was referencing the inquisition? also the crusades. and? you seem to be arguing with yourself here. but he wasn't leaving out atheism or agnosticism or buddhism or taoism or any other 'ism'. he was using the inquisition and crusades as examples of religious intolerance - but it doesn't mean it can't be applied to believers forcing beliefs on non-believers, does it?

      October 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Edwin

      edmund: I don't see why anyone would interpret Madison's words as being pro-atheist. He was talking about creating a mechanism to prevent religious wars, religious strife. He was worried about one religion (or non-religion) gaining enough power to attack other religions (or non-religions).

      An example might be legislation designed to make it harder for muslims to build a house a worship, or designed to make it harder for christians to form a private school. Well, he probably worried about bigger strife than that, but our imperfect separation has largely kept those big problems at bay (we have not had a single religious war in the U.S., I think).

      October 7, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      I do not see this quote anywhere in Madison's writings. Where did you get it?

      October 7, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • mama kindless

      Here's another one:

      "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, supersti tion, bigotry, and persecution."—-A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, 1785

      I've also seen some of his many writings like these at Montpelier. I'm not far from there, as well as Monticello, and like to visit them whenever I am in the area. They were both fascinating men for their times.

      October 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  6. njnagler

    The Republicans seem to be throwing the term 'secular' around like it is a bad thing. How could it be?
    It is freedom of religion (including none at all) rather than freedom from religion. I went to the rest of the Internet and found the Humanist movement. Seems a lot more logical than separation of the 'good' group against all the others. Peace, prosperity, and good health for all wouldn't make any sense to most of today's Republicans.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      it's not just freedom OF religion, it's freedom FROM religion.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Edwin

      Booty: secularism is BOTH. You appear to have a misconception. Secularism allows people to be free to NOT have a religion, and also to be free to HAVE a religion - any religion.

      What you might be thinking of could be called 'Militant Atheism' (not atheism, per se, since most atheists don't actually want to hinder or prevent religion and more than most christians want to hinder or prevent judaism).

      October 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      There could not be a Christianity without Judeaism. Christians that oppose Jews lack understanding.

      October 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  7. jojo

    The one solution that does not work is referring it upwards.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  8. Rainer Braendlein

    In order to understand things we need to consider history a little. Up to 1742 a. D. the pope (daddy rat) had very great temporal power in Europe beside his ecclesiastical power. Through the great merit of Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, the pope got deprived of his temporal power. Frederic the Great was a Protestant with an extreme wide cultural horizon, and he was extremly virtuous, clever and smart.

    Frederic knew exactly how the Roman Catholic Church worked. He knew that it was merely an apparatus of power ruled by evil bishops which were greedy for honor, power and riches (just read Frederic's book "Antimachiavel"/Chapter 11/On Ecclessiastical Principalities). Frederic knew that the Roman Catholic clergy was not concerned about the soul's health of the Catholics.

    Frederic knew exactly (like Jesus Christ) that also the Protestant Church of Pruzzia was in danger to be infiltrated by wolves in sheep's clothing (Frederic called them ambitious clergy) which would not seek the soul's health of the church members but only their own material benefit, or power and honor like the Roman Catholic clergy.

    The Culture Minister of Pruzzia was a strict Potestant during Frederic's reign that shows what was going on in his heart. Frederic was convinced that Protestantism was the right religion.

    Yet, as ruler of Pruzzia Frederic prefered no religion publically in order to avoid the emergence of any apparatus of power like the Roman Catholic Church. Frederic assessed his citizens only according to their real practical merit or virtue, and not according to their creed.

    And this is the solution: A state or administration should assess people according to their true practical behaviour but not according to their creed. Nevertheless, their is only one true doctrine of faith, yet even if someone beliefs in the true doctrine he can commit sins or even crimes when his faith decreases. Hence, the government should be secular or neutral.

    And finally Jesus Christ will judge us according to the real, practical deads or works which we have done.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    No church should be prefered by the state otherwise she can become "Catholic".

    October 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Edwin

      Rainer: interesting sentiments, but are you willing to extend them further? Did your King allow jews to live freely in his country? What about wiccans or muslims? I'd bet he probably only accepted Christian religions as acceptable, though I could be wrong.

      I do not mean to criticize his vision, but how should we apply it? Should we allow ALL religions, or just the 'good' ones? Your post posits the existence of one truth, which you appear to ascribe to Jesus Christ. Would you advocate tolerance for non-christians, like jews, wiccans, muslims? They do not believe in the same truth. And what about non-believers? It is not entirely clear to me whether you support this sort of secular view or not.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Christ, who did not claim to be a king, I am sure would have supported the view that supports religious freedom and civil government. Why? Because the faith that he taught can stand on its own in the free market place of ideas. And I would invite all to explore it outside the bias of secularists and atheists because what you have been taught about Christ, Christianity, and its role in creating civil government is very slanted.

      October 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  9. edmundburkeson

    Secularism could go back much further than jacques believes. When the apostle Paul spoke of the righteousness of God apart from a relationship with God it could have sparked in the minds of the uninitiated that such a thing was possible. what Jacques neglects to say is that secularism belongs to the realm of faith and must be subjected to the same scrutiny as any other faith. To put secularism in the realm of political doctrine does not give it a free pass. Moreover the secular beliefs of the founding fathers were not the same as the secularism of atheists today. Were that the case there would be no religious freedom because secularists are hostile in the extreme to religious freedom unless it is their own beloved atheism. The kind of secularism espoused by the founding fathers, who were Deists, was not secularism but a Judean-Christian view of civil government. It was not meant to exclude religion but to keep one sect of the Christian faith from dominating the others. Only later, post civil war, did Enlightenment ideas as materialism, reinterpret civil government to mean secular government. The same thing happened in the realm of scientific methodology. Science requires that an event be observable and repeatable in order to be accepted as fact. Evolution cannot past either test for validation yet because scientists views are tainted with materialistic assumptions – all life arose from matter. Those assumptions belong to the realm of faith, or of history, if they believe it can be supported as such, not scientific fact. Secularism should not be assumed, or given a free pass. It is not a belief which deserves elevation to the status of super-belief. Presuppositions are still presuppositions.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "Evolution cannot past either test for validation yet because scientists views are tainted with materialistic assumptions – all life arose from matter"

      wrong. there is so much evidence for evolution, it is considered a fact among scientists - as well it should be among the public - but people like you who obviously ignore evidence preach otherwise. you are keeping ignorance alive. go take an anthropology class at your local community college.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      If there is proof ... why haven't they brought it forward. Stephen Hawking was so frightened that is own views would be construed as Biblical Creationism that he felt compelled to make statements of faith – shocking! If you have proof that Stephen Hawking failed to disclose ... Bring it!

      October 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      are you joking? where's the proof? seriously, are you joking? pick up an anthropology book for starters. you don't consider everything in that book proof? you don't consider fossil evidence proof? geologic evidence? meteoric evidence? biological evidence? do you just ignore proof or just close your eyes to it?

      October 7, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Blatant Atheist

      http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/curiosity-with-stephen-hawking/

      Brought.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      There is nothing in the fossil record to support evolution – no transitional forms. You are living life under assumptions that have not been proven. I don't think an answer will be forthcoming from someone who is focused on the funk of the booty.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://www.transitionalfossils.com

      October 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Stephen Hawking is a theoritician. Though his view are highly respected, it will be left to true scientists to support his theories. So please ... if you have the scientific evidence, which can pass the muster of scientific methodology, present here and do not rely on sophisticated theories. Fossil records are historical evidence and support the opposite of evolution – that all life began as a distinct kind and did not have a common ancestor. That should be enough to make Darwin roll over in his grave.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      edmund, your just wrong. seriously, i invite you to do some research. basic research on the internet (you're in front of a computer now) will reveal how very wrong you are. no evidence in the fossil record? no transitional forms found? look up horses and hippos - their fossil records are very nearly complete and shows transitional forms. many other animals too. YOU are ignoring evidence.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/fossil-evidence.html

      October 7, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Tom: Get real! This website explores variations of fossils of the same class. You will notice there are no transitional forms between classes of animals of the type need for evolution. Look closely! This website would put a dent in my faith if I were using it for support ...

      October 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html

      October 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sorry, dear, but you have not a leg to stand on. Deny the facts all you want; your faith isn't proof.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://ncse.com/creationism/analysis/transitional-fossils-are-not-rare

      October 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/history_17

      October 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutevolution/a/TransitionalFossilsEvolution.htm

      October 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Bootyfink: I don't know what to say to you. Where is the half horse half hippo? How can you take these theories seriously. there may be similarities in size and in shape between horses and hippos, but there are also differences and that my friend does not prove, that they are of the same class or that one came from the other. Wishing it to be so does not prove that it is so. Observing similarities between the two does not support that it did in fact happen. There is far more evidence that there are gaps between classes. Unless something more than size and shape exists, you must assume there are different. Let me help you! Most scientists have given up on the fossil record and are exploring the possibilities on a much smaller scale of biology. but again bootyfunk nothing has been proven, they are just theories. You do not have proof. Even on the biological theories, the hopeful monster theory, many have abandoned to explore the universe for answers, as Stephen Hawking, is the universe winding down or continually re-creating itself? No one knows! Bootyfunk I was exploring this question when you were still in diapers. In 1983 I attended the Great Debate at Ohio State Univeristy. Awesome discussion! In the last 38 years, even with all the additional knowledge, nothing has changed. there is no conclusive evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that evolution is true. I'm sorry, that is just the case. Science, even at its best, has not supported evolution.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Inigo Montoya's mother

      The word "theory" doesn't mean what you think it means, edmund.

      October 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Edwin

      Science is based on the following ASSUMPTIONS:
      1) The universe is real and perceivable. What we perceive is a reflection of the actual universe.
      2) The universe is governed by immutable laws. These laws may be extremely complex, finicky, and even prone to change over time, but they exist, and they determine the breadth and scope of the entire universe.
      3) No force or being in the universe can violate these laws. If there were such a force, its abilities would have to follow specific guidelines - which would be in themselves laws. (This assumption can be waived, if it is assumed such a being exists but *chooses* not to violate the universal laws.)
      4) Humans are capable of understanding the laws that govern the universe. Well, they might not be able to understand the entire set, but they are capable of understanding far more about the universe than they currently do.
      5) The universe is consistent and repeatable. If I drop an apple yesterday and today in the exact same manner, its behavior should be exactly the same, and it will do the same thing again tomorrow.
      6) The best explanation for the universal laws is the simplest one that explains all known data. It is accepted as truth that this explanation is merely an explanation, not an edict - EVERY scientific principle can and SHOULD eventually be supplanted by a better one.

      Most religions accept #1, #2, and #5 without question. Obviously, many religions disagree with #3 and #4, but that is because the RELIGIONS make assumptions about the limitation of humanity's ability to understand universal laws - not because religions have greater access to truth.

      October 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      We could invent assumptions all day could we not? Where is the proof? You are still in realm of myths and legends.

      October 7, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      I leave with a personal story that caused me to seriously question the bias that some scientists have. I visited the Petrified Forest in 1987. The ranger and all of displays at the park explained that these agate formations took millions of years to form. The area was once a tropical forest because the trees that were petrified only grow in tropical climates. The ranger explained that something cataclysmic caused these trees to be buried beneath sand and water, and the trees were slowly petrified over a period of millions of years. That was before another cataclysmic event occurred in 1980, just 3 years later. The eruption of Mt St Helens. The eruption caused massive amounts of mud, trees, and water to be displaced – 100s of square miles. It also caused petrification of trees identical to what occurred in Arizona. In just 3 days! What scientists presumed to have occurred over the course of millions of years took just 3 days. these are the theories that you are referring to. They are not fact! They cannot be proven! To the contrary they are being dis proven at an unprecedented rate. So call then theories, call them educated guesses ... no matter how intelligent, no matter how sophisticated and intricate presuppositions, they are still only theories, albeit unsupported by scientific methodology.

      October 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Inigo Montoya's mother

      The word "theory" doesn't mean what you think it means, edmundo.

      When are you going to produce sources for your claim that evolution theory is being "disproven?"

      The stuff you write pegs you as one of the sort of creationists that are described on the sites listed above. You're so desperate to believe in creationism you will ignore and discount whatever is presented, and then when yet another bit of evidence is presented, you demand something else.

      Believe whatever you want. Don't pretend it's fact. And look up the word "theory" as it is used in science.

      October 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      I did not say what I believed. I am merely debunking the assumptions that evolutionists hold. I don't believe that scientific methodology has proven evolution or creation. I do find it interesting that Hawking was so concerned that his views supported Biblical Creation that he found it necessary to make very unscientific statements. God, he said, was not needed to start the universe. Did he support it with scientific evidence? No! Because a theoretician does not need evidence. We are not dealing with scientific fact. But what he said is the beginning of the end not for creationism, but for theoretic science. What he said is unsupported by the evidence. His views do in fact look more like Biblical Creation than evolution. If I were you I would be shaken by what he is theorizing.

      October 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      BTW mother. A dictionary definition of scientific theory has no bearing on how it is used in actual practice. Hawking's God statements are very unscientific, as are the overwhelming majority of scientific theories of the past century. The history of scientific theory is a very embarrassing one. More theories have been dis-proven by the Hubble telescope than can be mentioned here.

      October 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Tom, Tom: I visited your sites which are pretty much a repeat of excuses that I have heard for the last 40 years. Explanations of why there are not more transitional forms in the fossil record. Either they have not been found (and they would add "yet," I would add "ever."), or they can be explained on a molecular level. The fact is nevertheless, and this may be seen in the sites, that they are attempting to explain why the fossil record does not seem to support evolution overall. And the reason why is that it does not support evolution. How can you point to the fossil record therefore, when there is so much evidence to the contrary even among its supporters? The ape/man argument is so ludicrous because the base them on very scant existence of bones and fossils. Visit the Smithsonian! You can tell the real bones from the theoretical ones in their models. I don't know what to say Tom. Very weak!!!!

      October 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You don't know what to say because you don't have a clue what you're talking about. You've asserted that evolution is being "disproven" every day, but you present no evidence of any such thing. That's because it isn't. Evolution is accepted as likely by all but a few scientists and not a thing you've posted has even come close to providing evidence that it hasn't occurred, isn't occurring, and won't continue to occur. But go right ahead being ignorant. It's pretty much what I expected when I posted those sites: that you wouldn't be able to produce a single source of reliable scientific evidence to refute what is said in any of them.

      You don't have a clue what the word "theory" means when used in science, or you'd know that "theory" isn't just a wild guess. But like most of your ilk, you would rather ignore the inconvenient facts.

      The only thing weak here is your mind, dude.

      October 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    October 7, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      actions cause change; prayer wastes valuable time.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • nope

      @bitterfunk
      nope

      October 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • jojo

      Nothing fails like prayer.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • PsiCop

      Belief is good for no one and nothing. Prayer changes nothing at all.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • TR6

      Yes we all saw how well it worked for Bachman and Santorum

      October 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Yep

      @nope
      Yep.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  11. amarjeet

    Faith is an individual belief in himself/herself, righteousness, rationality & thought process. It has nothing to do with religion or other practices which hardly affect your inner as well external life.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, against the Roman Catholic Church

    or "On Ecclesiastical Principalities"

    (Antimachiavel, Chapter 11, by Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, Promoter of Enlightenment)

    (the book “Antimachiavel” refers to Machiavelli’s book “The Prince”, and is a refutation of “The Prince”)

    I have always found it very strange that these who call themselves successors of the apostles, I mean some poor men – preachers of humility and repentance – should possess great wealth, wallow in luxery, and fill posts more proper to satisfy the vanity of the age and the ostentation of the great than to occupy men who must meditate on the nothingness of human life and on the quest for salvation. However, the clergy of the Roman church is extremly rich. Bishops hold the rank of sovereign princes, and the temporal and spiritual power of the first bishop of Christendom renders him somehow the arbiter of kings(“arbiter of kings” means that the pope was higher than the Emperor, and thus the actual temporal ruler of the whole world) and the fourth person of the Divinity (“person of Divinity” means that the pope really presumes to be on a level with God).

    (Catholic) Clergymen and theologians separate the attributes of the body from those of the soul more scrupulously than anyone else, but their arguments might better be applied to the subject of their ambition. You, they could be told, whose ministry is restricted to the spiritual realm, how can you have so grossly confused it with the temporal? You who so subtly employ the distinguo when it comes to the mind, which you do not understand at all, and to matter, which you understand very little, how does it come that you reject these distinctions when it comes to your interest? It is because these gentlemen worry very little about the unintelligible jargon that they spout out and very much about the great revenues that they take in. It is because their fashion of reasoning must conform to orthodoxy and their fashion of action to their passions; and that the tangible objects of nature are as dominant over their intellect as the real happiness of this life is over the ideal happiness of the next world.

    The astonishing power of clergymen as well as everything which regards their temporal government is the subject of this chapter.

    Machiavelli finds that ecclesiastical princes are very happy because they have to fear neither the rebellion of their subjects nor the ambition of their neighbours (neighbouring princes). The respectable and impressive name of the Divinity shelters them from whatever could oppose their interest and greatness. The princes who attack them would fear the fate of Ti-tans (Ti-tans were thrown into the Tartarus, a kind of abyss, by the Greek god Zeus; the Catholic equivalent of Zeus is the pope) and the people who disobey them that of the sacrilegious. The pious policy of this kind of sovereign aims at persuading the world of what Despreaux expresses so well in the verse:

    “He who loves not Cotin loves neither God nor king.”

    What is strange is that these princes find enough credulous dupes who adhere blindly to whatever they want them to believe. It is certain, however, that no country swarms with more beggars than one run by priests. There one can see a touching picture of all human miseries, not of those poor attrackted by the alms of sovereigns, or of those insects who attach themselves to the reach, but of starving beggars deprived of necessities by the “charity” of their bishops so as to prevent them from becoming corrupted by affluence.

    It is undoubtly upon the laws of Sparta where money was prohibited that the principles of these ecclesiastical governments are founded, with the difference that the prelates reserve for themselves the use of the wealth of which they most devoutly despoil their subjects. Blessed, they say, are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven! And since they want everybody to be saved, they make sure that everyone is poor. Oh, ecclesiastical piety, is there anything that escapes your wise foresight?

    Nothing should be more edifying than the story of the heads of the church or vicars of Jesus Christ. One expects to find examples of irreproachable und saintly morals there. However, it is just the contrary. There are only obscenities, abominations, and sources of scandal; and one cannot read the lifes of the popes without detesting their cruelty and perfidy.

    One sees there their immense ambition to augment their temporal power, their sordid avarice in transfering great wealth unjustly and dishonestly to their families in order to enrich their nephews, mistresses, or bast-ards.

    Those who reflect insufficiently find it peculiar that people suffer the oppression of this kind of sovereign with docility and patience, that they do not open their eyes to the vices and excesses of the clergymen who degrade them, and that they endure from a head that is shorn what they wold not suffer from a head crowned with laurels. This phenomenon appears less strange to those who know the power of supersti-tion upon idiots and of fanaticism on the human mind. They know that religion is an old machine that will never wear out and that has always been used to insure the fidelity of people and put a brake on the restlessness of human reason. They knew that error can blind the most penetrating men and that there is nothing more triumphant than the policy of those who put heaven and hell, God and the devil into play in order to attain their designs. Even the true religion itself, the purest source of all our good, is most deplorably abused and often becomes the origin and principle of all our misfortunes.

    The author (Machiavelli) most judiciously notes what contributed to the elevation of the Holy See. Hee attributes it principally to the able conduct of Alexander VI, a pontiff who pushed cruelty to the extreme and who knew no justice but perfidy. One could not thus confuse the product of the ambition of this pontiff with the work of Divinity. Heaven could not have played any direct part in the elevation of this temporal greatness, which is only the work of a very vicious and depraved man. One could thus do no better than to distinguish carefully among clergy men betweeen the mark of God when they announce the divine orders and the corrupt man when they are thinking only of satisfying their passions.

    The eulogy of Leo X concludes this chapter, but his eulogy doesn’t carry much wight since Machiavelli was the contemporary of this pope. Any praise by a subject to his master or by an author to a prince appears, what ever one may say, as very close to flattery. Our life can only be judged by posterity, which judges without passions or interest. Machiavelli should have been the last to make an attempt at flattery, for he was not a competent judge of true merit, not even knowing what virtue was; and I don’t know if it is better to have been praised than blamed by him. I leave this question for the reader to judge.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    October 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  13. ?

    What the hell?

    October 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  14. Candy.

    Thisauthor first tells us that "President Barack Obama is secularism’s go-to guy in Washington", and then recounted that "the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a speech in which he intoned: “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States.”". So what is it exactly?

    Let's be honest. Obama is ostracized by the God-fearing GOPs because he's black, not because he's the "secularism go-to-guy". The author tried to justify the GOP's hatred for Obama by redefining secularism!

    October 7, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yep. for a secularist, he's expanded faith based, gov't paid for programs. he meantions 'god' in every political speech he gives. yeah, quite the secularist.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  15. Bootyfunk

    "The Christian god can be easily pictured as virtually the same as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of the people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites."
    - Thomas Jefferson

    October 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • nope

      @butterballs
      nope

      October 7, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • gager

      Jefferson had very little regard for the new testament.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      how'd you know my balls were smooth and buttery? you been spying on me again....? hehe.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • nope

      @batterbunk
      nope
      the gagger

      October 7, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • nope

      @futterpunk
      nope
      trurkey

      October 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  16. palintwit

    Repeated studies have shown that there is a greater incidence of child molestation and incest among southern white evangelical christians than in any other group that participated in the study. Living in cramped quarters (such as trailer parks) is one of the main causes of perverted behavior among christians. Those requiring further proof need only to take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The abundance of toothless christian cretins you will encounter are a direct result of generations of inbreeding. Historians have long theorized that the south lost the civil war because of the many mentally challenged soldiers in the Confederate army, another resulut of this inbreeding.
    Oddly enough, many of these christian misfits make their way north or west where they can be found working in gas stations and car washes. And yes, some do end up in Congress on the republican side of the aisle. And some end up in mainstream cinema, appearing in such classics as Deliverance, Smokey and The Bandit and the Dukes of Hazzard.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Lyle Backus

      The inbreeding did not start until after the war, after the North murdered our women. Thank God Boothe came along before Lincoln could do any more damage.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • palintwit

      Geez Lyle, sounds like you southeners had it coming...

      October 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  17. roger watson

    you cant successfully argue religion because it requires you to set aside rational thought and replace it with unquestioning belief

    October 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Lyle Backus

      Kind of like voting for Obama?

      October 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  18. Bootyfunk

    it's obvious the author believes in god and doesn't like that secularism and atheism go hand in hand. too bad. doesn't mean YOU get to highjack secularism and redefine it in your own view.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • nope

      @footybunk
      nope

      October 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  19. hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

    supreme court rightfully closed the door on hinduism, corruption of truth absolute called religion's but have never closed door on truth absolute GOD to be out of any thing, Any one living by corruption of truth absolute religion's is a hindu, out law, deserving to be charged for treason. hinduism, absurdity called religion's are handy work of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, secular's, otherwise known as Atheism or Judaism, never believed in truth absolute but division of truth absolute to justify hindu criminal king's and their hindu sanatan's, criminal goon's as man god's to deny humanity their gentile, slaves.please visit limitisthetruth.com and click on word Choice on website to open file.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      You have raised incoherence to a whole new dimension.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  20. FillaTX

    What disappoints me more than secularism being mistaken for a positive humanistic doctrine is that it gets mistaken (even by educated politicians) for atheism. Secularism is the principle that we ALL depend on when considering certain forms of majority abuse. Stop pretending not to embrace secularism! You all DO embrace its basic principles, but some of you pick and choose where to implement it according to your selfish agendas. Surely you remember from your American History classes that the founders were worried about our nation’s democracy allowing a majority to have too much power. Allowing every matter to be subject to the whim of a majority amounts to incorporating a "might-is-right" regime in which minority individuals soon suffer abuse. Secularism is one of our safeguards against that kind of threat.
    Tomorrow, there may be a new religion prevailing in our land, and if its members are a majority that want your children to say a prayer in public school (to the religion’s three-headed dragon god), how would you feel about that? If we allow a religious majority’s FAITH –BASED rules to enjoy governmental enforcement, then tomorrow you may have to dance the “Hokie Pokie” on your front lawn or have your taxes doubled so that solid gold dragon sculptures can be put on the roof of every city hall. If your best counter argument is that you doubt this will happen and that “Christianity prevails now, so we Christians should get to impose our ways on everyone”, then you are a might-is-right thinker, and there’s no point in discussing legal principles with you. If you want to impose faith-based rules on others, then go start a cult on some private land and try to attract some followers. Stop trying to make America a place where citizens can’t escape from (and are forced to pay for) your faith-based vision of how to live.
    Let’s see if YOU share my view about certain communist regimes (maybe all of them). I consider the following to be clear: You really KNOW that a regime has lost its right to govern when its citizens are SO disappointed with it that the only way for the regime to survive is by making it illegal for citizens to leave. Most of you will agree. The argument that “We have to hold citizens prisoner in our country because otherwise our regime would crumble” isn’t very compelling, and the following argument sounds just as bad to me: “We have to legally force people to live according to our faith-based rules because otherwise our religion will lose membership.” Both claims are so selfish and shameful that nobody openly speaks them, but I’m certain that millions of Americans secretly hold the latter view. Regimes deserve to survive if and when people are willing to live under them. Religions deserve to flourish to the extent that people are willing to voluntarily embrace them.

    October 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      Majority does not hold any sway over truth. absolute, but every one is subordinated to La. truth absolute GOD, including Judges of Supreme court, denial of truth absolute is nothing but hinduism, denial of truth absolute, hinduism, crime against truth absolute GOD and his humanity. Way of hindu Jew's, criminal secular's to divide humanity through hindu criminal mechanism of hinduism, system of cast system.

      October 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.