Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Atheists demand a God-free Capitol visitors center

Posted by sanityinjection on July 23, 2009

I was thinking about posting on this but The Future American beat me to it:

http://thefutureamerican.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/atheist-groups-lawsuits/

It’s amusing when we must rely on our Canadian friends like this blogger for some perspective on separation of church and state in America. But as she seems to understand, America was founded on the principle of freedom *of* religion, not freedom *from* religion. On the other hand, it does not strike me as an injustice if the Capitol visitors’ center doesn’t happen to mention God, either. Both sides are playing games here. If the Capitol architect is really clever, he’ll sell McDonald’s the right to cover the place with advertising and welcome visitors to the “McCapitol Visitor’s Center”. Both sides will be so outraged that they’ll forget all about the God issue 🙂

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11 Responses to “Atheists demand a God-free Capitol visitors center”

  1. morsec0de said

    “America was founded on the principle of freedom *of* religion, not freedom *from* religion. ”

    I’m sorry, but you can’t have one without having the other.

    Unless you’d like to be arrested for working on the Jewish sabbath, of course. Because you’ve got freedom of your religion, but not freedom from theirs.

    No government building should make any statements of any religious nature, pro or con. It’s the only way to keep it from being discriminatory towards a particular group of people: the way “In God We Trust” is discriminatory against polytheists, Buddhists, atheists, etc., and “We trust in no gods” would be discriminatory against theists.

  2. Sorry, but history is against you. The Founding Fathers frequently referred to a Creator in their speeches, discussions, and in the founding documents themselves. In their view, the natural rights that they sought to enshrine came from divine Providence.

    The concern of the Fathers was to prohibit the establishment of a state religion along the lines of the Church of England. They wanted to make sure no one religion enjoyed special favor from the government. They were not trying to eliminate religion from public life altogether.

    I certainly agree that atheists have the right not to believe. But the fallacy is that mentions of God somehow discriminate against them. To an atheist, the concept of God is meaningless. If I don’t believe in pink elephants, why should the mention of a pink elephant offend me?

    Further, I disagree that the phrase “In God We Trust” discriminates against polytheists or Buddhists. If you knew as much about these faiths as you think you do, you’d know that even polytheistic religions have a concept of a greater power over their many gods. It’s often nebulous and ill-defined, but it’s there. There is a cognate for “God” (as opposed to “god”) in the ancient languages spoken by polytheistic peoples.

    You may feel that any mention of religion in public life is wrong, but that is not the philosophy on which the United States was founded.

    • morsec0de said

      “The Founding Fathers frequently referred to a Creator in their speeches, discussions, and in the founding documents themselves.”

      Speeches and discussions matter very little.

      The fact remains that no god is mentioned in the Constitution.

      “They were not trying to eliminate religion from public life altogether.”

      Define what you mean by ‘public life’.

      If by ‘public’ you mean ‘operated/endorsed by the government in the name of the citizens of the US’, then religion has no place there. If by public you mean you walking down a street and proselytizing, then go for it.

      “But the fallacy is that mentions of God somehow discriminate against them.”

      There is a difference between a mention of god and endorsement of certain kind of religion. There is also a difference between a mention of a god and a monument to a god.

      “you’d know that even polytheistic religions have a concept of a greater power over their many gods.”

      Some do. Most don’t. And even of those who do, they would prefer “In the Gods we trust”. Not to mention that most have a Goddess as the main deity.

      How would you feel with “In the gods we trust”?

      “You may feel that any mention of religion in public life is wrong, ”

      Again, you seem to be confusing the legal definition of public with the common usage.

      • “Speeches and discussions matter very little.”

        As a matter of fact, they matter a great deal. Over the course of American history, both legislators and the Supreme Court have attached a great deal of importance to the recorded speeches, debates and discussions of the Founding Fathers in seeking to interpret the Constitution. Your statement would be akin to telling your grandfather that if he has any advice to give you, you’ll only consider it if he puts it in writing 🙂

        “The fact remains that no god is mentioned in the Constitution.”

        True – but the Declaration of Independence references “Nature’s God”, “Creator”, and “Supreme Judge of the World” as well as “the protection of divine Providence”. You will object I’m sure that the Declaration has no binding legal status, but you should see how many times it’s referenced in Supreme Court decisions. Clearly the Founding Fathers were in no way uncomfortable with references to a singular God in the most critical areas of public discourse.

        Again, your problem is that this isn’t just an abstract argument. You are arguing against 235 years of American history in which the role of God has been invoked over and over again, including by the Presidents of the United States when they take the oath of office. Do you find it offensive that President Obama ends his official speeches with the phrase “God bless America”? Isn’t that an endorsement of religion?

        If you happen to have any US coins or bills in your pocket, you will note that they all feature the phrase “In God We Trust”. If you truly believe that this is a coercive violation of the separation of church and state, you should avoid cash transactions altogether.

  3. morsec0de said

    “True – but the Declaration of Independence references “Nature’s God”, “Creator”, and “Supreme Judge of the World” as well as “the protection of divine Providence”.”

    Not only do I object to the Declaration’s status as a legal document, I also object because of the context in which the declaration was made. If you are responding to a culture and government that believes there king is given the power to rule by god, of course you’re going to respond to them in at least semi-religious terms.

    “You are arguing against 235 years of American history in which the role of God has been invoked over and over again, including by the Presidents of the United States when they take the oath of office.”

    I most certainly am. Neither the founding fathers nor any politician are infallible. There have been constant infringements on the first amendment over those 235 years. Making “so help me god” part of the oath (which it isn’t) is just one of those infringements. (Note, I say making it a part of the oath is an infringement. Not saying the words of their own accord, as Washington did.)

    “Do you find it offensive that President Obama ends his official speeches with the phrase “God bless America”? Isn’t that an endorsement of religion?”

    Offensive? No. Inappropriate? Certainly. Wrong to do so? Yes.

    “If you happen to have any US coins or bills in your pocket, you will note that they all feature the phrase “In God We Trust”.”

    Which weren’t added until the 50s, thanks to the wonderful patron of freedom and patriotism, Joe McCarthy. The same with the pledge of allegiance, which originally did not include ‘under god’. Ironically, the pledge now makes no sense, because by adding ‘under god’ it keeps us from being ‘indivisible.”

  4. Are you familiar with the philosophical school called Pragmatism? According to pragmatism, any proposition can only be judged by its effects. If references to God are discriminatory as you suggest, where are the effects of that discrimination? Where are the examples of atheists losing jobs, being denied housing or being encouraged to emigrate? We should certainly have seen an increase in such cases after the introduction of “In God We Trust” onto the coinage (and by the way, that first occurred in 1864 and became standard in 1938. The 1955 law simply extended that to paper bills. So no, you can’t blame it all on McCarthyism.)

    On the contrary, however, since the expansion of the use of the motto, atheism has flourished and become more socially acceptable than ever before. So have polytheistic practices such as wicca. So I hold that in the real world, as opposed to world of abstract intellectual argument, references to God in the official business of America are not violations of the separation of church and state and do not effectively discriminate against atheists, polytheists, or indeed anyone.

  5. morsec0de said

    “On the contrary, however, since the expansion of the use of the motto, atheism has flourished and become more socially acceptable than ever before. So have polytheistic practices such as wicca.”

    Yes, discrimination will cause huge movements to enact social change. Which is exactly what has happened here.

  6. That’s quite a stretch. I think you’d be hard pressed to identify anything like a “huge movement” of non-monotheists arising in America in response to discrimination. The largest atheist/agnostic group in America only boasts about 13,000 members, and polytheist activists are even fewer in number.

    I recognize that it may be more pleasant to live in a world of one’s own imagining rather than in reality, but it doesn’t enhance one’s credibility in discussions.

  7. morsec0de said

    “I recognize that it may be more pleasant to live in a world of one’s own imagining rather than in reality”

    But apparently you don’t recognize irony.

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