Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Separation of Church and Sanity

Separation of church and state is a bullshit concept. Having said that, I do believe that the government should never embrace a specific religion, nor should it interfere in any person's exercise of their own faith, except where it intrudes on the rights of others. If that sounds familiar, but you can't quite place it, dig out the Bill of Rights and read it. And while you're there, try to find the words 'separation of church and state' anywhere in there. I bet you can't find it.

There has always been a battle in this country between the bible-thumping evangelicals, who seek to set rules by the word of THEIR God, and the anti-religious zealots, who have sought to purge all this shit about some magic being whipping up a world for us from public discourse. Both sides have valid points and are absolutely wrong. The truth lies somewhere in between, probably somewhere just to the side of the evangelicals. So if you're of the extreme, all-or-nothing attitude, this column is not for you.

To start, let me give you my viewpoint. I had received the strained, spoonfed view of faith for over a decade (eight years of Catholic school, holy shit) and had remained an active churchgoer for three decades. However, the most enlightening view of the Bible I ever had was a (secular) great books class in college. For the first time, I got more than the belief-shaded version of the text. I had the opportunity to see what motivated the people who wrote each verse, and why. And from that, I began to understand.

The first point I want to make is that there is room for both science and religion, both the sacred and the secular, in our world. Consider the evolution vs creation debate: evolution tells us how, and creation tells us why. The end of scientific explanation is where God can take over. Also, consider that since God is, by logical definition, an entity that exists beyond logical understanding and perception, there should never be a conflict between the two.

As for government, the United States has a firm foundation in the Judeo-Christian ethic. For all the calls we have for diversity and tolerance of other points of view, which are good, we cannot forget this, as our laws derive from this point of view. Only when a government entity seeks to support a specific faith or denomination, or targets the same, should we speak up. Down in Georgia, a few goofs from the misnamed Atlanta Freethought Siciety have organized a dozen goofs to protest the governor's prayer ceremony at the statehouse. And the governor did not force anybody or exclude anybody in organizing it. Also, in addition to the prayer, he's doing everything else necessary to conserve the water. Thus he has done good.

And that's what religion in this country should be about. When we pray to God for something, it should be to better ourselves spiritually, and to better or world. In this way, we can get our country on the right track.

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