Tag Archive: Religion

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Those are some the most powerful words ever put to paper and as an American with deep roots in this country and a family history of military service my pride and love of country swells when I read them. When the “Star Spangled Banner” plays it never fails to bring a tear to my eye and the lump in my throat prevents me from singing, much to the pleasure of those around me I’m certain, the beautiful lyrics penned by Francis Scott Key. Both of these served to help unite a young country that was diverse in just about every area from state to state whether it was culture from their parent countries or even religion and dialect. Regardless of the diversity in the end they came together as the United States of America… one country, under one flag, and one constitution that was designed to protect and serve all.

In recent years we have seen a surge in the religious among us, it was once just the ultra religious but they have since expanded their ranks, trying to push our government into going outside the protections set in motion by our founders and this wonderful document. Some have even gone to the extent, in great error mind you, to base their argument on their belief that we were founded on Christian principles and that we are a Christian nation when nothing could be further from the truth.  This personal blog is just that, personal and I have no intention of branding myself a Constitutional scholar or trying to denounce all religions or religious people as bad for our country. What my intention is however, is to voice my opinion as I see it as a private citizen who is concerned about one group trying to force it’s way into our laws and throw the balance of power in the wrong direction which would harm the rights of others. One of our most notable politicians in our own lifetime, Barry Goldwater, put it this way in a speech in the Senate in 1960:

“I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

Once more he makes a similar statement in 1994 as quoted in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience (2006):

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

My question then is if Barry Goldwater saw it as that bad in 1960 and again in 1994 then how bad is it really fifty-two and eighteen years later? Answer: even worse.

It’s 2012 and we have seen Christians get up in arms over kids at a high school being disciplined for “Tebowing” claiming religious discrimination, over a man who was arrested for preaching at a California Dept of Motor Vehicles office, the whole gay marriage issue, and most notably the case of Rhode Island student Jessica Alquist and her fight to have a prayer banner removed from her public high school’s wall. It has seemed to become common practice for them to say that it is hate and persecution and bigotry when the law doesn’t side with their point of view but you know what the great thing is about the law and the first amendment? It applies to all not just one group especially one group who wants to call foul every time it doesn’t side with them. The next natural progression is to rant against the ACLU as an anti-religion and mainly anti-Christian organization set on removing the rights of Christians. To that I say bull. The ACLU, while taking some stands I do not agree with at times, also has a history of standing up for the rights of Christians whose right of freedom of religion and free exercise have been challenged and they even list it on their site.

So what’s the fuss? It all comes down to the United States is obviously a morally deprived country who has apparently forgotten god and therefore must repent and get back to it’s Christian roots and turn it’s back on gay right, abortion, and other such sinful acts. According to people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and a handful of others America is being judged with hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters because of such actions. I don’t mean to offend, though I’m sure I will, but this is my opinion and mine alone… America is not a Christian nation nor does it’s citizens need to have a moral code forced on it via laws from one particular group and natural disasters happen whether you pray or not. That doesn’t deter the preachers, laity, or even politicians like Marco Rubio saying that god and creator is all we have. What about those of us who don’t agree? Are we not welcome? Are we no longer American enough? Are we and our opinions not to be represented? Barry Goldwater warned us and he was right and unfortunately we are seeing it come true. There is a group out there growing more and more powerful, whether on their own or via the Tea Party, that is seeking to get people in power that want to shape the laws of our secular nation to fit a Christian point of view. While I am all for freedom of speech, expression, and religion I am also all for having a responsibility that comes with that freedom and that is respecting and not trampling on the rights of those who disagree.

Our Founders had some very wise words on this subject that those who claim they were Christians, only John Adams was the rest were Deists, and that this is a Christian nation tend to forget namely:

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

An even better statement directly addressing the issue is a letter from President Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush:

“I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten…The delusion…on the clause of the Constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favourite hope of an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own…the returning good sense of our country threatens abortion of their hopes and they (the preachers) believe that any portion of power confided to me (such as being elected president), will be excerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: FOR I HAVE SWORN UPON THE ALTAR OF GOD, ETERNAL HOSTILITY AGAINST EVERY FORM OF TYRANNY OVER THE MIND OF MAN.”

All of that which has been said can only best be summed up in those beautiful words penned over two hundred years ago:

‘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.”
These words protect us all from the tyranny of one group, grant freedom to all groups and individuals involved, and guarantees our voice can be and will be heard when some would rise up with determination to silence it because they disagree. It allows the Christian student the right to wear their cross to school and carry their bible, the Muslim to wear their Burqa, the atheist to challenge a religious prayer at tax payer expense, and even the freedom to go to whatever assembly you deem worthy on whatever day of the week they worship. That’s only one aspect of this beautiful document but it still needs to be preserved and cherished so that all can enjoy their own version of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Is this a rant about and against Christians only? By no means certainly not. What it is, however, is a reminder that when one group seeks to force their will on others that is tyranny and something that our Founders fought against and our Constitution protects us from.
Worship who and how you wish to worship, love who you wish to love, and speak out to make your voice heard but please allow the rest of us the same right even when it disagrees with you, your religion, and your book.

Targeted for Conversion

So I’m sitting on my lunch minding my own business at work doing some personal email and looking at Facebook when my phone chimes… it’s a message on Google Talk from an acquaintance of mine. “Hey man, how’s it going?” he says as it’s Tuesday and a day that he normally has free at his work and at times we chat back and forth about general things but mainly the message board that I help administrate and he participates on. We go back and forth in friendly conversation and then out of the blue he hits me with wanting to talk about biblical doctrine; something I am very well versed on but I choose not to discuss. Being a friend and not wishing to be rude I humor him and answer a couple questions he has and then the real intent comes through… “You’re talking like a true Calvinist and deep down I think you still believe” he tells me. He continues with “You are where you are at because god wants to reveal the real truth to you and had to get that stuff out of your life that you grew up with; that Pentecostal doctrine is all feeling and emotion and I want to tell you about the real truth and right now you are raw material and god can use that to teach.”

Time out. Slam on the breaks. Did he just say what I thought he said? Reading between the lines and taking the spit and polish off of it basically he said I was raised wrong and all of that stuff you learned and studied and the life you lived was a lie but hey, I have the market cornered on truth and even though you’ve made it clear you want nothing to do with god and religion I’m going to tell you anyway. My mind instantly jumped back to “The Terminator” (1984) when Reese finally finds Sarah Conner as the Terminator is getting ready to kill her and, navigating wildly down the road fleeing from the cybernetic assassin, tells her “You’ve been targeted for termination.” It was clear that I was targeted for conversion and, much like Sarah, it was whether I wanted it or not. As in my last blog I make it no secret that I am not interested in all things christian and god and religion etc but I try not to be rude rather I try to be patient, respectful of others beliefs, and as a good friend put it, I try to be prudent and not hurtful. At the same time I expect the same in return.

The discussion ended well as I tried to be polite and he even thanked me for being open and respectful as well as for my candor and I told him that I also understood his position. I reminded him that I had given thirty years of my life to going to church, twenty as a baptized believer, and thirteen as a minister and I knew as well as preached the arguments he presented and engaged in them myself when trying to convert someone. However, his position as a Baptist minister didn’t mean that I wanted his beliefs pushed on me, I wasn’t interest, and he needed to sell crazy elsewhere. He knows me as blunt and truthful and took it as I meant it which wasn’t an insult but rather a “I’ve mentioned it nicely twice now I’m telling you” kind of thing and he backed off. I admire him for what he did, I don’t agree, but I admire him. Someone who feels passionately about what they are doing/living/believing needs to be proselytizing as Penn Jillette said:

“ I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

That’s exactly how I see it. He’s a Christian and a Baptist minister as well as a friend so he was doing what he knows to do out of concern and I don’t fault that but where I start to have the issue is when it is clearly made known that it is unwelcome but yet it continues to be forced.

In April of 2009 The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a poll on reasons why people leave their childhood faith. Of the 2,867 people polled 1,894, or 44%, are not affiliated with their childhood faith and broken down further 360 of those polled, or 7%, who were raised Protestant are now unaffiliated and as I was a Protestant that will be the area of the poll I focus on.  When we get into the why’s 71% say they just gradually drifted away, 50% just stopped believing, and 36% were unhappy with the bible’s teachings… check me on all of those. I have a deeper more personal reason why all of these happened which I do not feel the liberty to share outside of a certain group of people. Suffice it to say it was a very deep emotional decision and a hard fought battle that made me change my mind and, though I’m still looking for more detailed polls, I firmly believe that many who came to these same conclusions as I did probably went through the same battle I did.

Those of us who choose not to be religious are looked at as if we cook and eat babies, I’ve seen us referred to as liberals and communists (I happen to be conservatively libertarian actually), we are told we have no joy or peace, told we don’t know what we believe, and worse yet that we must be angry at someone be that a church member, family member, preacher/minister, or the christian god himself. None of these could be further from the truth and personally I resent it when people pronounce such on me or others who think like I do. Are there some unbelievers who are angry for some reason? Of course there are but I have equally met angry believers too. We have also been referred to as un American since obviously America is a Christian country (wrong) and our Founders were Christian (wrong again) so if we don’t want to be involved in church and we don’t want church and god involved and mentioned in everything that’s done in America then we must be un American and silenced.

We won’t be silenced actually. Most of us just want to live our lives as we see fit without others pushing their beliefs on us or being told our lives aren’t complete simply because we don’t believe what you believe. Worship your god, read your bible, give to your church and most of all live your life but in regards to the latter… let us do the same in peace and if we want to learn about what you believe we will ask.

The Blame Game

I tend to keep my innermost thoughts to myself in regards to religion but at the same time I make it no secret that I no longer attend church at all, believe strongly in church and state separation, and that I question religion as a whole. Living in the “Bible Belt” as it is affectionately called does present some difficulty as does the fact that my whole family is of the Christian faith so I tend to be the black sheep; not that I have been called that as I have a fantastic family & beautiful wife but it is what it is no sense in beating around the bush.

The thing that gets me the most, and unfortunately when I was Christian I did this too, is that when someone who is a believer finds out that you are not religious and don’t go then the spiritual diagnosis begins. Things like “you must not know what you believe” or “you need some peace in your life that’s all” or even better “why are you angry at god and/or the pastor” but even better still “perhaps we can talk about this when you’re not mad.” They all are extremely closed minded statements but the last one really takes the cake as far as placing the blame on the person who dares question religious beliefs. So, I answer these questions with a question… why must it always be the doubters fault? and to take it even further why do people feel the need to make it their fault rather than just let them find their own way whether that is back to a religious walk or of on their own.

Now before anyone thinks it, and certainly before they get made and say it, this isn’t an anti-Christian rant and I definitely don’t hate Christians and above all ‘m not mad I’m just musing. This short little blog is just to plant a thought: think before you speak and judge not lest ye be judged. Walk a mile in someones shoes and try to understand before you jump to conclusions about why they left church and religion altogether and above all love them. Don’t look at them like they have three heads and have begun eating babies and drinking blood because chances are the person that you are accusing of being angry or hating someone or something may have just had something traumatic happen that changed their whole point of view and shook everything that they were ever raised to believe.

This is coming from someone who has plenty of peace, is loving and living life to the fullest, and certainly isn’t angry at you or anyone else including your invisible friend. If you claim to be Christian or just religious for that matter then all you have to do is show it and live the love, peace, and thoughtfulness that your religion teaches you to have and let others live their life without your judging it.