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Separation of Christian, Muslim, and State

August 2010
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“What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.”  –Voltaire

We need to protect our ideals from intolerant and ignorant doctrines and bigots, which is why we need to allow the so-called mosque–which is rather a cultural center–to be built at–or rather near–ground zero. Allowing this cultural center to be built would be a triumph of enlightenment ideals.

The right-wing seems to lack any nose for subtlety and nuance. Newt Ginrich and his ilk, supported by Fox News and their ilk, like to portray, ever predictably, that the construction of any Islamic center near Ground Zero would be some kind of Islamic Triumph. We’d somehow lose. This is bogus and unenlightened. Behold! The Neanderthal!

Any thinking human can grasp that it would not be a victory of Islam over our Enlightenment Ideals, upon which our constitution is properly founded–which is another point which seems to be lost on the Religious Right. Our constitution is not, as they are so wont to claim, founded on the Bible and the Ten Commandments. We have formally separated Church from State.

If our Constitution were based on the Bible, and did we not protect freedom of religion, the founding of an islamic cultural center near Ground Zero would be tantamount to an islamic victory. But what we are preserving is greater and wider than the narrow and ignorant vision claimed by these neo-bigots.  No, God is not great–and I have the right to both think and say so. I am an American.

We Americans–insofar as it is the American Ideal we hold dear–defend the right for all to pursue happiness, for all to practice their own religion, for all to practice free speech, for all to think. Excluding the right of Muslims to practice their religion freely is an assault on our ideals which is ever more insidious than would be the building of the grandest and most golden mosque right on the sacred Ground Zero.  It is suppression. It is oppression.

The paranoid argument that Islam is assaulting our values is misguided. Yes, I grant, the heart of Sharia Law is not in keeping with the enlightenment ideas embodied in our constitution; and I grant we need to defend our ideals from unenlightened doctrines, like that of Sharia Law. But it is even less in keeping with our enlightenment ideals to not allow the center to be built.

If we want to defend our ideals–which are worth defending with our own spilled blood–we must practice the separation of Church and State to the letter. We must not allow religion and government to mix. We must support a secular and compulsary public education. We must keep our religion in our hearts and homes, and practice secular manners when at school or in government office.

This means no school prayers, and that “Under God” should be removed from our pledge of allegiance so that all of our society may find a deeper allegiance with our flag and our ideals.

This means that the mis-named Creation Science needs to be kept our of our classrooms. Without science and the scientific method, we have no objective way of settling sectarian disputes.

A religious and non-secular public education–and not immigration–is what would lead to a “Balkanization” of the United States. It follows from this that the religious right poses an even greater threat to our country than the minority muslims with their Sharia Law; for they seek to transgress a sacred law and common ground when they seek to bring God into our government, our schools, and our science.

I, unlike those who have forced the phrase “In God We Trust” on our money, do not trust that God will keep America “one nation, indivisable.” God is too divisive a concept to preserve the Union. Therefore, not one penny  of our tax dollars should go to  fund a religious cause or organization.

Our law is not based on the Ten Commandments, though the Ten Commandments do have a rightful position in the History of Law. To put the Ten Commandments on any public property is not different in principle–in our Secular State–than insisting that a monument be set up for Sharia Law.

The separation of Church and State trumps any historical argument. I fully acknowledge that our culture is a Christian culture, though I am not a Christian. I love many of our Christian traditions, such as Christmas, such as Gospel Music, such as certain Christian-developed concepts of Love.

I fully acknowledge that Christians have the right to practice their religion, and will defend their right to practice to my death bed, though I will die an atheist. But Christians have no more right to practice their religion than do the American Muslims, who are protected by our enlightened Law–which is neither Sharia Law nor an extension of the First Commandment:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”

No, our separation of Church and State, sacred though it is, is no Christian value. It is an Enlightenment Value, given us by philosophers and revolutionaries, and which needs to be constantly defended from ignorance and bigotry.

Let us protect this value by following this value. Practicing it faithfully and with utter dilagence is sufficient to preserve it. Keeping our public education both secular and compulsory will give all faiths and free thinkers a common understanding and set of rules which will protect them, each and every one. And by making no law respecting the establishment of religion, our country shall be as a secular city shining upon a hill. We shall keep the conditions which trump, by law, the establishment of Sharia Law or Mosaic Law, and light our way to the promised land.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”



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