home
RSS
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. Adnan

    There is no GOD but ALLAH.

    October 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • ME II

      Out last. Out wit. Out play.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Amniculi

      You were doing well up until the 5th word...

      October 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • End Religion

      There is no god but Hank. This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first:

      John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

      Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

      Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"

      John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."

      Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

      John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."

      Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

      Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

      Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

      John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

      Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

      Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

      Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"

      John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."

      Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

      Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts
      out of you."

      Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

      John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

      Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

      John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

      Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

      Mary: "Well, He gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."

      Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

      John: "Hank has certain 'connections.'"

      Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

      John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."

      Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."

      Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

      Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"

      John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."

      Me: "Who's Karl?"

      Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

      Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

      John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

      From the Desk of Karl
      1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
      2. Use alcohol in moderation.
      3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
      4. Eat right.
      5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
      6. The moon is made of green cheese.
      7. Everything Hank says is right.
      8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
      9. Don't use alcohol.
      10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
      11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.

      Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."

      Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

      Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

      John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

      Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

      Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."

      Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"

      Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

      Me: "How do you figure that?"

      Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

      Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

      John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."

      Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

      John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

      Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

      Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

      Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon was somehow 'captured' by the Earth has been discounted*. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese."

      John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!"

      Me: "We do?"

      Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."

      Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"

      John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."

      Me: "But...oh, never mind.

      October 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  2. James

    Atheism has killed more people in the last fifty years than religion has in the last two thousand.

    October 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • ReligionIsBS

      Please explain. I bet you dont.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "James", but your assertions regarding atheism are highly unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      October 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • hinduMithra ism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      Atheism, self center ism is way of hindu's, criminals, just a fancy word to declare hinduism, criminality, some thing of a acceptable nature.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • ME II

      @James,
      No one has been killed in the name of Atheism, unlike most gods and religions. The atrocities that I suspect you are referring to were committed in the name of Communism.

      @Hal 9001,
      Your reply was only mildly humorous the first 100 times. Now, not so much.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Seraphim01

      eeeent. Wrong answer. Please try again.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      You guys are expecting a little much from James. Religious people don't evaluate claims based on how well they fit evidence, and thus can't be expected to provide any. Claims are evaluated on how badly you want them to be true. That's why they find it absurd to believe that non-believers aren't evil, that the earth's climate is changing, that humans aren't special creations separate from other organisms, etc. Why would you want to believe these things? Therefore, they"re not true.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • End Religion

      the only thing atheism kills is god

      October 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  3. hinduMithra ism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

    Should we not recognize Sunday, SUN DAY is a hindu pagan day to worship SUN god of hindu pagan Roman's, follower of hindu Mithra ism, savior ism, divider's of truth absolute 360* in to two triangles of 180*, between KING and his hindu pagan Prophet, fortune teller goon, called trinity.

    October 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • hinduMithra ism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      USA WAY is based on truth absolute and founding father's were divinion, follower of truth absolute as one unit. hindu Mithra ism pagan savior ism labeled as Christianity is hinduism, violation of Way of America GOD, truth absolute, bedrock of American Independence and never part of America.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Theen Allah Fat Mullah (the Original Hinduism Source..........)

      Should we recognize Monday? Or MOON Day. Anyone has issue with that? Please speak up now!

      October 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Wrong.

      The English noun Sunday derived sometime before 1250 from sunedai, which itself developed from Old English (before 700) Sunnandæg (literally meaning "sun's day"), which is cognate to other Germanic languages, including Old Frisian sunnandei, Old Saxon sunnundag, Middle Dutch sonnendach (modern Dutch zondag), Old High German sunnun tag (modern German Sonntag), and Old Norse sunnudagr (Danish and Norwegian søndag, Icelandic sunnudagur and Swedish söndag). The Germanic term is a Germanic interpretation of Latin dies solis ("day of the sun"), which is a translation of the Ancient Greek heméra helíou.[2] The p-Celtic Welsh language also translates the Latin "day of the sun" as dydd Sul – Wikipedia

      October 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  4. pat

    Is the following quote secular enough for you?

    The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.
    – Albert Einstein

    October 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • hinduMithrale life serching truth absolute, constant ism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      Einstein spent his whole life searching for truth absolute, constant of matter's but knew nothing about God hood of truth absolute, constant, essence of existence for every thing, including his own. What a tragedy, he could not recognize truth absolute GOD on front of him.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Miguel

      Actually, I'd argue that your quote is a poor example of secularism – it represents a direct assessment of God and theology, rather than a philosophy of practical indifference to religion, as secularism connotes.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • pat

      This country works against atheists. The stupid money says the god motto and they changed the pledge – TO THE COUNTRY – to be a pledge to god. Keep it.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Theen Allah Fat Mullah (the Original Hinduism Source..........)

      I know everything about truth absolute. It is 360*. 180* is half of truth absolute.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Apatheist

      @Theen Allah

      You know 360 degrees = 0 degrees.... You know nothing.

      October 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  5. Roscoe Chait

    How many more people must be murdered and exploited for the sake of religion? This God thing has not worked out that well for humankind.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • blessedgeek

      How many more people must be exploited and murdered by atheists? How many?!!

      October 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Yeah...atheists murdering people – not really a problem. Religion's got a lock on that one.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Jonathan

      blessedgeek, give me some examples of people killed for the sake of Atheism.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • JonathanL

      Obivously both sides have bad apples (atheists and non-disbelievers alike). It seems people kiill each other regardless, though studies and statistics show a significant positive correlation between religosity and serious, violent crimes, illegitimate births, alcoholism, and domestic violence. But Secularism is not a threat to religion, or merely some Atheistic enforcement of some kind, as politicians and media portray it. I think it is a necessity if we are to keep our government from becoming a sectarian state. What if Muslims become the majority someday and are able to vote for 5 prayer sessions in all the schools, or put "in allah we trust". That would rile the Atheists for sure if they didn't get their heads chopped off. What if we become overridden by Voodooists or the Hindus and they modify the coin motto into "in Gods we Trust", and Sharia Law here we come! I will never buy into this phoney religosity thing. In the old days religious was a term reserved for those who took monastic vows. I don't want to hand over Democracy to be re-written by a rule-laden biased religionist oof any particular preference.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  6. Cq

    This is like those pastors who want to challenge the separation by endorsing candidates. If pastors were allowed to do this how long would it be before candidates paid them to do it, and elected candidates manipulated things in order to place sympathetic pastors upon the pulpits? The way I see it breaking down the wall just leaves the churches open to becoming the puppets of political parties.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  7. MNFree

    When there is no deity, people will look to another thing to worship. In cultures in which there is no God, that worship strands closer to government, as it is the ruling body of authority. Which is why the USSR for example championed atheism, and China also is not tolerant to religions, just Confucianism, which provides their people with teachings that support a governing body to listen to.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Chris

      Your examples seem to focus more on established cults of personality where the state built up idolization of the leading elite as symbols of worship. Additionally, just because people were made to raise such figures up as idols doesn't mean that people gave up on their longstanding faith in these societies, so the whole replacement argument weakens further. People are perfectly capable of leaving faith and worship out of the picture, but doing so requires us to accept that certain things cannot be explained by contemporary knowledge (e.g. why the universe we live in even exists) without resorting to the existence of a deity to fill in those gaps. As an atheist though, I don't even see this as an obstacle, but rather a challenge to continue learning more about the world around us, and I'm perfectly happy with that.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  8. Cq

    Religion is a lot like the slaughterhouse industry: Most people don't know what actually goes on inside them and don't care as long as they get what they need. Mostly everyone who actually does know what goes on in them are either making their living off of it, or are vegetarians/atheists.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  9. ME II

    To the author,
    "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 statement, I think, is misleading. While the exact phrase did surface with Jefferson's letter, the letter was in fact responding to the church's concern about governmental interference in their religion and in fact quoted the Establishment Clause as "thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." And Jefferson, while not the author of the First Amendment, was the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, commonly thought to be a source of much of the First Amendment, as well as the DOI, COTUS., and the BOR.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • The Truth

      It does not matter if he was refering to building a wall between them to protect religion or to protect the government, a wall is a wall.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  10. Chad

    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.

    – there should be no establishment of a state religion
    – there is absolutely nothing wrong with public officials acknowledging the God of Abraham and seeking His guidance.

    October 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Al

      What about acknowledging the Gods of Rock? Is that ok?

      October 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • snowboarder

      chad – or acknowledging and asking for guidance for any deity for that matter.

      it is impossible to divorce the beliefs of the person from their work, but as long as they don't attempt to use their position to press their beliefs it is just fine.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Concerned Citizen

      I agree there should be no established state religion.

      I also agree to an extent that any elected official has every right to seek the guidance of their particular god. That is their right of free speech and there's nothing in the law to stop them. However, it is up to the consti.tuents of any elected official to hold him or her to a standard and to expect those officials to make decisions based on good logic and evidence. For instance, I have no problem if my elected official is trying to choose between what types of programs to cut out of the budget and decides on a specific program because he/she feels god would like on over the other then whatever. But it's VERY wrong for say George Bush to decide to invade iraq against the evidence that there were no WMD's only because god told him to, that's incredibly frightening.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Al

      Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will feel comfortably numb.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Chad

      @Al "What about acknowledging the Gods of Rock? Is that ok?"
      @snowboarder "or acknowledging and asking for guidance for any deity for that matter."

      =>if that's what you believe in, I would strongly encourage you to do so and any attempt to prevent that should absolutely be a violation of your civil rights. The biggest benefit is that by doing so you wont get elected.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • ME II

      – there should be no establishment of a state religion
      – there is absolutely nothing wrong with public officials acknowledging the God of Abraham and seeking His guidance.

      @Chad,
      You are correct, up to the point where public officials are acting as officials of the government. In that case, public officials acknowledging or invoking God violates the first statement by endorsing a particular version, or versions, of religion. The official are free to worship however they wish and say whatever they wish, as themselves, but as representative they cannot endorse one religion over any other, or none.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • The Truth

      "I would strongly encourage you to do so and any attempt to prevent that should absolutely be a violation of your civil rights. The biggest benefit is that by doing so you wont get elected." Because dumbfvcks like Chad will only vote for the guy who claims to believe in his specific special God of Abraham who anyone can say they believe in with zero proof of real faith but again, dumbfvcks like to have their ears tickled so they gobble the liars bull shlt right up.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      chad: how about the flying spaghetti monster?

      October 8, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • sam stone

      or bush41 saying he was not sure that atheists should be considered citizens

      October 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Momof3

      @Concerned Citizen – "For instance, I have no problem if my elected official is trying to choose between what types of programs to cut out of the budget and decides on a specific program because he/she feels god would like on over the other then whatever."

      REALLY?!? I have HUGE problems with an elected official deciding on which PUBLIC governtment program needs to be eliminted based on what he/she feels god would like/dislike! How can we be sure that the elected official is truely speaking for his god, and which god are we letting him speak for?

      October 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Concerned Citizen

      @Momof3

      Let me refine my initial statement. If two public programs are on the chopping block and neither one of them has a discernable reason why one should be kept and this is a case where the official would be fine playing "eeny meeny miney moe" then they might as well use whatever means necessary to pick a program. If this means they ask their god for guidance, so be it, as long as it's not the sole determiner. Trying to completely separate a person who has faith and how they make decisions is a pipe dream at best, the only thing you and I can do is try and contain it by making sure a single persons religious views don't affect public policy by voting those types of legislation down.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • ME II

      @Momof3,

      Also, the person was elected, not their god.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Chad

      @ME II "You are correct, up to the point where public officials are acting as officials of the government. In that case, public officials acknowledging or invoking God violates the first statement by endorsing a particular version, or versions, of religion. The official are free to worship however they wish and say whatever they wish, as themselves, but as representative they cannot endorse one religion over any other, or none."

      @Chad "a public official acknowledging the God of Abraham (as is done every day) is in no way shape or form an attempt by the govt to establish a state religion.
      Prohibiting any gov't official from acknowledging God and asking His guidance is a violation of civil rights and is thankfully not practiced in the USA. Marx/Lennin/Mao all tried that, if that's what you want I suggest emmigration.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Chad

      @sam stone "how about the flying spaghetti monster?"

      =>if that's what you believe in, I would strongly encourage you to do so and any attempt to prevent that should absolutely be a violation of your civil rights. The biggest benefit is that by doing so you wont get elected.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Chad

      @ME II "Also, the person was elected, not their god."

      =>kind of a catchy one liner, but exactly how does that work in practice?
      Let me guess, public officials prohibited from mentioning God, or "enforcing His rules"

      which of course leaves us with state atheism.. and we know how awesome that works.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • ME II

      @Chad,
      "Prohibiting any gov't official from acknowledging God..."
      As I said, they are free do as they like, but in an official capacity (for congress, this would primarily be making laws) they cannot endorse one religion over other religions, or no religion. This is similar to teachers not being able to promote their religious views while teaching. I think this has been upheld many times by the SCOTUS.

      ME II: "Also, the person was elected, not their god."
      Chad: "kind of a catchy one liner, but exactly how does that work in practice?"

      Simple, you check the box next to that person's name on the ballot. How else?
      It usually doesn't state, "John Smith's view of what God wants."
      Many politician have made statements to the effect of "while my personal beliefs are different, this is a country of laws and it is the law that I will follow while in the office of..."

      Ultimately, elected officials take an oath to uphold the law, usually the Consti.tution specifically, but definitly not "divine law". So they are obligated, in their role as officials, to do so, whether their religious beliefs agree or not. If they want to "acknowledge" god and it does not interfere with their official duty, they are free to do so. The only honest alternative would be to resign before taking any action that would violate their oath.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Chad

      Obviously everyone has to obey laws. So you're ok with acting in line with theistic convictions? You dont have any kind of "religious litmus test"?
      You'll never utter something like "You dont get to enact laws that enforce your religion on me" or anything like that?

      October 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • ME II

      @Chad,
      "So you're ok with acting in line with theistic convictions?"
      As long as those convictions don't violate the law, or their oath in the case of elected officials.

      "You dont have any kind of 'religious litmus test'?"
      Not sure what that is, however, if there is no reason for a law, other than religious reasons, I would probably oppose it on the grounds of parsimony, fewer laws are better, in general, if no other reason.

      "You'll never utter something like 'You dont get to enact laws that enforce your religion on me' or anything like that?"
      I certainly will.
      "enact[ing] laws that enforce your religion on me" would violate multiple preexisting laws, namely those already mentioned, Art. VI and 1st Amend. Why wouldn't I oppose that?

      October 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Chad

      @ME II " if there is no reason for a law, other than religious reasons, I would probably oppose it on the grounds of parsimony, fewer laws are better, in general, if no other reason."
      @Chad "ah..
      the devils in the details..
      as long as you get to define "no reason for a law, other than religious reasons"
      you get to attempt to disallow laws you dont like, based on those grounds alone..

      For example, you could then attempt to say "the only reason you dont want to change the legal definition of marriage to include same se x, is due to religious reasons, and since you arent allowed to do that, you can't oppose the change"

      Thank God this country hasnt yet bowed to nonsense such as that.

      @ME II ""enact[ing] laws that enforce your religion on me" would violate multiple preexisting laws, namely those already mentioned, Art. VI and 1st Amend. Why wouldn't I oppose that?"
      @Chad "ONLY if the law forced you to practice a religion.
      If the law outlawed abortion for example, it would NOT come under that prohibition.

      you dont get to clas sify a particular law as "enforcement of your religion" just because you disagree with the inherent morality of it.

      October 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • ME II

      @Chad,
      First, I don't "get to disallow" any laws. However, I can oppose laws that I don't like, just as you can. What I was assuming, of myself, was that if I didn't "like" a law, it would be for rational reasons, one of which is parsimony. This goes along with my, believe it or not, conservative views on government. Smaller is better. Not always, but given the option of no law or a law that has no rational purpose, I will take the 'no law' option.

      Your example of gay marriage is a decent one, because I don't think there is a good reason to oppose it. However, I don't think there is 'no reason' other than religious to oppose gay marriage. There could be arguments from the impact to the children, impact to society, practicalities (cost too much to change all the forms to "Spouse #1" and "Spouse #2" instead of "husband" and "wife"). However, I don't think any of those non-religious reasons are accurate and/or sufficient enough to not allow gay marriage. If therefore, the only other reason are religious, then I don't see any reason not to allow it.

      Perhaps it would clarify my earlier statement to say that strictly religious reasons should not be considered, which would also mean "if there is no reason for a law, other than religious reasons, I would probably oppose it on the grounds of parsimony."
      The corollary being, if there is no non-religious reason to pass a law, then I see no reason to pass it.

      "ONLY if the law forced you to practice a religion."
      I don't think that's correct. "enact[ing] laws that enforce your religion on me" could involve many other aspects, slavery, mixed marriages, buying alcohol on Sunday's, teaching creationism in science class.

      "If the law outlawed abortion for example, it would NOT come under that prohibition."
      There are many reasons, secular reasons, to limit abortions. Some of which are already in places, partial-birth, late-term, etc. However, I don't agree that there are currently enough weight to the pro-life argument to out way the pro-choice agrument, but that is my opinion and it is debatable. Which is why I don't go crazy on here with pro-choice statements; it is a bit less clear cut than many other issues. So, if the reason for outlawing abortion were non-religious, then that would not be enforcing religion on anyone.

      Basically, the first part of the "Lemon test":
      "The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_v._Kurtzman)

      October 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • End Religion

      @chad: "That is because the United States is historically and culturally Christian."

      debunked and refuted a thousand times...

      ***
      "We rest on Sundays."

      The day of rest comes from the Jewish tradition. If you're asserting a day of rest somehow makes our country some religion, which would be absurd in any case, it would make us a Jewish nation not Christian.

      ***
      "We close federal offices on Christmas."

      Christians have apparently enjoyed a preference. I'm sure you've noticed that preference fading... Even in our schools, at least where I'm at, we no longer have "Christmas break" but "Winter break". There's no Halloween celebrations here anymore, only Fall Festivals. The religious overtones of holidays are waning.

      ***
      "We put the word “God” on our coinage."

      1864. While offensive, it refers to any god, so in Zeus we trust.

      ***
      "Most citizens are believers."

      Apparently most people are believers. A nation is not defined by a religion unless its government recognizes one as the official one.

      ***
      "The state cannot logically “separate” from them."

      It can, has and will continue to keep State separate from church.

      ***
      "there is absolutely nothing wrong with public officials acknowledging the God of Abraham and seeking His guidance."

      Seeking guidance from imaginary beings is called insanity.

      October 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Chad

      @ME II "I can oppose laws that I don't like, just as you can"
      @Chad "agreed"

      =========
      @ME II "What I was assuming, of myself, was that if I didn't "like" a law, it would be for rational reasons,"
      @Chad "implicit in that statement is that anyone who opposes your viewpoint, does so for irrational reasons? 🙂

      =========
      @ME II "Your example of gay marriage is a decent one, because I don't think there is a good reason to oppose it. However, I don't think there is 'no reason' other than religious to oppose gay marriage. There could be arguments from the impact to the children, impact to society, practicalities (cost too much to change all the forms to "Spouse #1" and "Spouse #2" instead of "husband" and "wife"). However, I don't think any of those non-religious reasons are accurate and/or sufficient enough to not allow gay marriage. If therefore, the only other reason are religious, then I don't see any reason not to allow it."
      @Chad "and right there is the crux of the arrogance of the atheist. This desire to tell others that "any belief that the atheist determines to be for purely "religious" reasons, is not a belief that can be used to enact legislation on."

      The stunning thing is, that belief of yours is in direct violation of the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause. You dont get to tell me what legislation I get to support. End of story.

      ===========
      @ME II Perhaps it would clarify my earlier statement to say that strictly religious reasons should not be considered, which would also mean "if there is no reason for a law, other than religious reasons, I would probably oppose it on the grounds of parsimony." The corollary being, if there is no non-religious reason to pass a law, then I see no reason to pass it."
      @Chad "see above.. stunning example of the willingness of todays atheist to trample on the first amendment.
      amazing doesnt even come close to describing it.

      =========
      @ME II "I don't think that's correct. "enact[ing] laws that enforce your religion on me" could involve many other aspects, slavery, mixed marriages, buying alcohol on Sunday's, teaching creationism in science class."
      @Chad "sorry, no. 🙂
      your transparent attempt to somehow block legislation enacted by majority process due to some disagreement on the underlying motivation only serves to highlight your willingness to set aside the consti tutional protections afforded all citizens.

      ==========
      @ME II "Basically, the first part of the "Lemon test": "The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_v._Kurtzman)"
      @Chad "uh..
      you didnt actually read that page.. before citing it.. 🙂

      that decision had to do with restricting the right of the government to enact legislation concerning religion (congress cant interfere with religion). It DOES NOT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM lay out any kind of litmus test for legislation along the lines that you are describing above. It DOES NOT say anything like
      "Government's legislation must have a secular legislative purpose, it may not have a solely religious purpose"

      you badly misread that...

      October 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • ME II

      @Chad,
      Sorry, just recently ran across a link back to this, but if you see this:

      You said,
      "It DOES NOT say anything like
      'Government's legislation must have a secular legislative purpose, it may not have a solely religious purpose'

      The site I quoted, said,

      "The Court's decision in this case established the 'Lemon test', which details the requirements for legislation concerning religion. It consists of three prongs:
      The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;"

      How is "The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;" not the same as,
      "Government's legislation must have a secular legislative purpose, it may not have a solely religious purpose"
      (emphasis added, of course)?

      October 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  11. Rynomite

    9/11 destroyed 60 years of good works on the behalf of secularism in this country. Declining church membership and general apathy about religion was suddenly replaced by a new nationalist and religious fervor. All because the priests and ministers finally got what they really needed to fill the pews: an enemy/scapegoat. A quack can't sell a fake cure without a fake ailment. Thank you Muslims.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Unfortunately, I think you're spot on. In the aftermath of 9/11 I was thinking, "Wow, maybe we really need to step back and reevaluate the influence of religion in the modern world" and to my shock the majority of the country was thinking "See! This is what we get for kicking the Lord out of public schools! We need to get back to traditional Christian values in this country!" Siigggghhhhh.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • snowboarder

      ryn – very true. disasters tend to bring out the religion in people as they try find meaning in chaos.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • pat

      Yes – remember the Time cover of Bush praying? At that point I figured i don't belong in this country.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I remember the first thing I did on 9/11 was give blood at the Red Cross, a Christian organization. Next, I went to mass and prayed for our nation as well as for forgiveness for the violence of all mankind.

      October 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • FYI

      Bill Deacon,

      The Red Cross is not a Christian organization.
      http://www.redcross.org/about-us/mission

      Very nice of you to donate blood, though. Thank you.

      October 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Jean Henri Dunant (May 8, 1828-October 30, 1910) His passionate humanitarianism was the one constant in his life, and the Red Cross his living monument.

      The Geneva household into which Henri Dunant was born was religious, humanitarian, and civic-minded. In the first part of his life Dunant engaged quite seriously in religious activities and for a while in full-time work as a representative of the Young Men's Christian Assoc., traveling in France, Belgium, and Holland.

      October 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Clara Barton and her parents attended the Universalist Church in Oxford, Massachusetts. In 1905 she wrote a statement of her religious beliefs to her friend, Mrs. Norman Thrasher, Lakewood, Ohio.

      My dear friend and sister:

      Your belief that I am a Universalist is as correct as your greater belief that you are one yourself, a belief in which all who are privileged to possess it rejoice. In my case, it was a great gift, like St. Paul, I 'was born free', and saved the pain of reaching it through years of struggle and doubt.

      My father was a leader in the building of the church in which Hosea Ballow preached his first dedication sermon. Your historic records will show that the old Huguenot town of Oxford, Mass. erected one of, if not the first Universalist Church in America. In this town I was born; in this church I was reared. In all its reconstructions and remodelings I have taken a part, and I look anxiously for a time in the near future when the busy world will let me once more become a living part of its people, praising God for the advance in the liberal faith of the religions of the world today, so largely due to the teachings of this belief.

      Give, I pray you, dear sister, my warmest congratulations to the members of your society. My best wishes for the success of your annual meeting, and accept my thanks most sincerely for having written me.

      Fraternally yours, (Signed) Clara Barton

      Glen Echo, Md., March 12, 1905

      October 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • FYI

      Bill Deacon,

      Interesting information about the founders, but still, the Red Cross is not a Christian organization, anymore than IBM is a Christian company because its founder was a devout Methodist.

      October 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • End Religion

      by Bill's rationale, Microsoft is an atheist organization

      October 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Bill,

      regarding the "International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cresent Societies"

      http://www.ifrc.org/en/who-we-are/vision-and-mission/

      So which is it Bill? Christian or Muslim? This is a pretty weak strawman argument.

      There is no disputing the Swiss origins of the Red Cross at the battle of Solferino. The red "cross" is the Swiss flag inverted. It does not connotate religiosity on the part of the International Red Cross. Durant himself was Calvinist, but see his wikipedia page for the following:

      " In his final years, he spurned and attacked Calvinism and organized religion generally. He was said to be agnostic."

      The organization is not religious in nature. How about secular? That sounds like a good word, and on topic here.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Ooops – Dunant

      October 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  12. mama kindless

    Isn't history interesting? I just love how much easier to learn things now compared to when I was a little girl – before computers. There are so many more tools available for cross-referencing and fact-checking.

    Anyway – every once in a while someone on these boards will try to convince you that the founding fathers of the U.S. were Christian and that our country was founded on Christianity. Well, we know that several of the important ratifiers and even designers of our Const!tution were Deists – some of them attending Christian church, and some, not so much. The important thing is that the designers and ratifiers of the Const!tution felt it was very important for there to be a separation of church and state. And although they didn't call it as such in the First Amendment, the language of that text and their other writings are pretty clear. Here are some of my favorite writings from some of the key founders of our country.

    James Madison (deist who sometimes attended Anglican church) (who became our 4th President, he is hailed as the Father of the Const!tution)

    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

    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?
    –A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of VA, 1795

    Thomas Jefferson (deist)(who became our 3rd President, he was the key author of the Declaration of Independence)

    Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.

    We have solved ... the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.
    –Speech (as POTUS) to the Virginia Baptists (1808)

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
    –Letter to the Danbury Baptists (1802)

    and then of course we have these clarifying moments in history:

    U.S. Senate

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

    –from Article 11 of its treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797

    I also like to include something Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his Presidential election:

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute

    October 8, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Bleh

      Well, at least that wasn't some huge monolithic block of text. You keep posting it, though. Rewrite it if you are going to be spamming us with this. Thx.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • mama kindless

      There were several corrections and added text since the first post.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      John Adams
      2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

      "Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."

      –Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

      Benjamin Franklin
      Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Consti'tution

      "Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshiped.

      John Hanco'ck
      1st Signer of the Declaration of Independence

      "Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. ... Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."

      John Quincy Adams
      6th U.S. President

      "The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made 'bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God' (Isaiah 52:10)."

      October 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • ME II

      @Mark from Middle River,
      If you are trying to imply that the US is a Christian nation, then I would remind you of the fact that despite your quotes the founders went out of their way via the Consti.tuion to make sure there was a separation of church and state. As evidence of this:
      "...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Art VI
      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..." Amd I

      October 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • mama kindless

      True, ME II. Ultimately for us, what really matters is what was agreed upon, what was ratified.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • mama kindless

      Plus, Mark, you are quoting things that, from what I can see, have to do with these particular founders and their beliefs. But, unless I missed something, they don't specifically address the issue of separation of church and state. Whereas Jefferson and Madison addressed specifically that issue, as evident from the sample of quotes that I posted.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • pat

      I actually don't care what any of those slave owners thought.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Hi MEII. The debate has always been, from our side, that the separation was so that the Government can not say establishment of a state religion. So, until the Government sends troops to your home or my home on Sunday morning and say that we are compelled to follow a Faith that they have ordained, then the Consti'tution has been upheld. The same as how the Government has no control within our Churches, Temples and Mosques.

      Am I saying we are a Christian nation? Where did I say that. America is a nation of many, Some Christian, some Jew, etc and some who are not of Faith. That's all.

      >>>”. But, unless I missed something, they don't specifically address the issue of separation of church and state. “

      By your Thomas Jefferson quote, it just supports the claim that the separation is that the Government has no place in the Churches but does not support the some times rabid belief of radical Atheist that this separation is meant to exclude those of Faith from society including the State.

      >>>”I actually don't care what any of those slave owners thought.”

      Well, you do not want to exclude everything that they did due to a factor in their lives. Thomas Jefferson was someone who cheated on his wife with her slave/half sister, but the details of what he did for the country can hardly be forgotten.

      October 9, 2012 at 1:08 am |
  13. Friend of No Faith

    The first use of the phrase "wall of separation" between the state and religion was by Roger Williams, 150 years before Jefferson. However, we do know that Jefferson had a copy of Williams' "Bloody Tenet" tract in his possession.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  14. Amniculi

    Finally, a sensible article on this blog. Now maybe all you right-wing-fundie-religio-nuts can lower your blood pressure a bit.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  15. Gregg

    *Religion is nothing more than a lifestyle, it has nothing to do with the true creator and everything to do with belonging to a group of people who discriminate. When people pray, each one of them has a depiction of what god looks like and each one of these gods looks different and mostly referred to as him. Praying to an idol you created in your head is just that, If I tell you god looks like a rock, you will see a rock when you pray, If I tell you Jesus is standing next to god you will picture a man named Jesus standing next to a rock, the rock you create in your head is just in your head – no 2 rocks look the same because you cannot see what's in another persons mind, god is an idol in your own mind that you talk to, now that is just plain silly. I was just kidding that god looks like a rock, god actually looks like ? see what I mean !

    October 8, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  16. Julia

    I still do not get why everybody assumes the word "God" is a Christian concept to everybody. I always figured my life's task was to define that word for myself. Honestly? There are some of us here in America who are neither Christian nor Atheist.

    October 8, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • End Religion

      you'll have to find another name for your delusional sky daddy. "God" is already taken.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • The Justice

      @Julia
      Good point, so mant versions of god out there to chose from, to each his own. The problem with many christians is that they believe the phrase "In God We Trust" applies only to their mythical god.

      October 8, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Jim

      The Justice
      Their's and maybe the Jewish idea of God, but not the Muslim idea of the same god.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  17. Anna Hayward

    I'm a secular Buddhist, which means I have adopted certain Buddhist practices and traditions, such as meditation and work towards showing loving kindness, but I choose not to be associated specifically with any particular tradition and remain agnostic about ideas like reincarnation. I am also atheist. So thank you for pointing out that not all secularists are anti-religion, and we're (mostly) not heartless monsters either!

    October 8, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • Julia

      My two best friends are atheists, and a gay married couple. They are not anti-anybody. My husband also is an atheist. I KNOW for a fact that not all atheists and secularists are mean like the ones I see from time to time on line. On line though is a safe haven for letting it all hang out I suppose.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • David

      A religion is not required to believe in the unknown, what I heard is atheist's do not believe in god or the unknown.
      Atheist-ism is a religion, I am anti-religious but I believe in whatever it is. I call it the unknown to remain true. The word god is a human word that reflects a him or he or some other character you can make up. Anyone can meditate , you don't need to be with any religion – not even halfway to feel the awe of the unknown. All religions are false !

      October 8, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • End Religion

      @david: An atheist has no religion. Atheism is to religion as transparent is to color.
      How can one "not believe in the unknown"? That's absurd... God is a manmade, known entity, and we don't believe in the fairy tale.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • David

      Sorry man, an atheist belongs to a group of people who practice the belief of no god – it is clearly a religion – research it.
      But when you do some say it is and some say it isn't. it's an oxymoron.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • David

      @End Religion - When you have an NDE like I have you witness something but you have no ideal what it was (unknown)

      October 8, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • JohnQuest

      David, I don't refer to myself or any non-believer by a name, are the people that Don't believe Santa "Asantaist"? What about all those that don't Believe in Zeus (name any God other the than the one you believe), do they a religious group?

      October 8, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • ME II

      @David,
      "...an atheist belongs to a group of people who practice the belief of no god – it is clearly a religion – research it."
      First, for most atheists, I think, atheism is a lack of belief in god(s), not a belief in "no god".
      Second, regardless of the details of (dis)belief, there are no doctrines, dogma, tenets, rituals, or practices involved in "Atheism", it is a single negative statement, nothing else. Hence, it is not a religion.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • End Religion

      "i do not understand" does not equal "god"
      You had a near death experience, your brain was traumatized, you hallucinated. End of story. Except it isn't the end... because the hallucination was powerful so you are refusing to accept the science of the matter, and instead feel the need to attribute it to some god. It's a delusion.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Jim

      David
      If you don't like sports, for example, how do you "practice" that? If you mean doing something else when others go to church, or thinking through our problems instead of praying is a "practice" then it's not a very organized one, is it?

      October 8, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Jim

      David
      There are unknown things. I'm an atheist and I believe that we have much yet to discover, but I doubt very, very much that God is one of those things. After all, 99.999% of all gods are now understood by the vast majority of all people to have always been just myth. What is the likelihood that we will find actual evidence that any of them are actually real?

      October 8, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Rynomite

      LoL – I guess I "practice" my Atheism by not going to Chruch on Sunday. I also "practice" my atheism by taking part in education and science. Finally and most importantly, I "practice" my atheism by critically reading the collections of myths in the bible and koran. Funny how actually reading books of varioius religions (something the religious themselves rarely do) and applying logic and reasoning is probably the most important part of being a "practicing" atheist.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    October 8, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are still unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      October 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  19. This is one of those times.

    I know a mealy-mouthed know-nothing when I see an article written by them....every damn time.

    October 8, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Yeah, he's an Associate Professor at Georgetown. He probably knows nothing. Clearly your education and intellect surpass his.*

      *end sarcasm.

      October 8, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Bleh

      No, OP is right. This guy clearly doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. A mealy-mouthed know-nothing.
      Just because he might be a professor doesn't mean he's worth listening to. Judge his words for yourself.
      The guy doesn't know what secularism means, what atheism means, nor does he appear to know anything about Constltutional law. He's talking out of his ass.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Jim

      Bleh
      So, if someone says anything that doesn't match what your pre-concieved notions are then they have to be wrong because you're always right?

      Conceited much?

      October 8, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Eye

      If someone is talking out of their ass, it isn't conceited to point that out. Overly defensive much?

      October 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • fiveliters

      Last line in the article (not that you read it or anything":
      The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jacques Berlinerblau."

      Opinions,not fact. Don't think he said he knew anything,everything,or that he was right/wrong. Just that it was an -opinion-.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  20. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:->>>>>>

    Putting the final kibosh on religion and therefore putting an end to the word "secularism" .

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A quick Google, Bing or Yahoo search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    See p. 4 of the commentaries for definitions of secularism, Buddhism and Taoism.

    ===================================================================================
    ===================================================================================

    October 7, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • hinduMithraism Christianity baseofhindufilthyracism.

      hinduism, absurdity of a hindu, absurd.

      October 7, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Advertisement
About this blog

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.