Monday, December 31, 2007

Loony Spice vs. the Genocide Against Christmas
Or:
Christmas: the Time When People of All Faiths Can Come Together and Worship Jesus Christ

Whew! These people. Really. Here's Michelle Malkin taking on one of the most crucial issues of our time, the WAR AGAINST CHRISTMAS!!! (cue sinister music)

But really...is 'war' a strong enough term? Isn't it really more like the massacre against Christmas? or the genocide against Christmas?

Really this is just a kind of roundup of some other conservatives whining pointlessly about...well...I think they're whining about the fact that some people refuse to recognize Christianity as the official state religion, but it's isn't clear.

This person goes on at length about the failure of the USPS to offer specifically Christian stamps for Christmas (rejecting without argument the point that if they did it for one religious group, they'd have to do it for all of them). Now, this probably isn't an argument worth getting into, but--more substantial points to the side--why, exactly, is it necessary to have Christian stamps to go on your Christian-themed Christmas cards? Is Christmas really ruined...ruined!...without specifically Christian everything? How about postmarks? Should the USPS adopt specifically Christian postmarks for that time of year as well? How about Christian parking tickets?

Heck, I like Christmas, and I've got absolutely no problem with folks who want to celebrate it as a specifically Christian holiday (though it is really an assimilated pagan holiday, and there's little chance that Jesus--to the extent that there was such a person--was born on December 25th). But it's not the government's job to participate in this. In fact, it's the government's job not to do that.

And this kind of whining really has to stop. The idea seems to be that if the government doesn't privilege Christianity, then this constitutes an attack.


O.k., enough of this silliness.

34 Comments:

Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

But the war on Christmas is quite open and blatant, a purposeful effort to drive religion out of the public square. Secularism is not synonymous with pluralism, but anti-theists hide under the cover of the latter for their own ends.

The US was not founded as a secular nation [neither as a "Christian" one, contra many of those on the right], but as a pluralistic one, the difference between a 1000 flowers and no flowers at all.

And yes, there was a Muslim holiday stamp, and anyone who wants a Madonna & Child stamp has to be good with the Muslim one, too.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

This person goes on at length about the failure of the USPS to offer specifically Christian stamps for Christmas (rejecting without argument the point that if they did it for one religious group, they'd have to do it for all of them)

Which is incorrect, as there is a Madonna and Child by the Catholic painter Luini which about as Christian/Chrismassy as allowed by the narrative of the Gospels, the only thing more so would be a Holy Family portrait that didn't include the Three Kings, as the names and specific skin colors of the latter are folk traditions made up 100s of years after the main event.

The USPS Holiday offerings can be seen here for this year, and includes stamps for Kwanzaa, a holiday as synthetic as Esperanto.

But the war on Christmas is quite open and blatant, a purposeful effort to drive religion out of the public square. Secularism is not synonymous with pluralism, but anti-theists hide under the cover of the latter for their own ends.

Religious Pluralism:

* Religious Pluralism may describe the worldview that one's religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth, and thus recognizes that some level of truth and value exists in at least some other religions.
* Religious pluralism often is used as a synonym for ecumenism. At a minimum, ecumenism is the promotion of unity, co-operation, or improved understanding between different religions, or denominations within the same religion
* As a synonym for religious tolerance, which is a condition of harmonious co-existence between adherents of different religions or religious denominations.

Secularism:

Secularism is generally the assertion that certain practices or institutions should exist separately from religion or religious belief. Alternatively, it is a principle of promoting secular ideas or values in either public or private settings. It may also be a synonym for "secularist movement". In the extreme, it is an ideology that holds that religion has no place in public life.

In one sense, secularism may assert the freedom of religion, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. (See also Separation of church and state and Laïcité.) In another sense, it refers to a belief that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact rather than religious influence.[1] (See also public reason.)

The purposes and arguments in support of secularism vary widely. In European laicism, it has been argued that secularism is a movement toward modernization, and away from traditional religious values. This type of secularism, on a social or philosophical level, has often occurred while maintaining an official state church or other state support of religion. In the United States, some argue that state secularism has served to a greater extent to protect religion from governmental interference, while secularism on a social level is less prevalent.[2][3] Within countries as well, however, differing political movements support secularism for equally varying reasons.[4]


This is what Madison had to say about the subject:

"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?" -- James Madison, _A_Memorial_ and_Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of VA, 1795

"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, superstition, bigotry and persecution." -- James Madison,_A_Memorial_ and_Remonstrance, _2000_Years_of_Disbelief_ by James A. Haught

"Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and all of which facilitates the execution of mischievous projects. Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded project."--James Madison, _2000_Years_of_Disbelief_ by James A. Haught

"And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."--James Madison in a letter to Edward Livingston in 1822

"It may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to unsurpastion on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will best be guarded against by an entire abstinence of the Government from interference in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect against trespasses on its legal rights by others."--James Madison, "James Madison on Religious Liberty", edited by Robert S. Alley, ISBN pp 237-238

Seeing that 'anti-theists' are behind this (you mean atheists, Legate Van Dyke?) perjorative language doesn't help your extreme claim that a tiny minority of the population are behind "driving religion out of the public square", although I'm flattered to discover that I'm part of an influential segment which doesn't involve Baby Boomers or the commercially important 18-49 demographic range.

Thanks for boosting my self-worth, Legate Van Dyke.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, pluralism can also include atheism, which acknowledges no truth to religious claims whatsoever. So later for the Wiki, DA, which is OK as a compass, but not a GPS.

[And no, atheism and anti-theism are not synonymous. Jurgen Habermas is an atheist, but encourages religion in the public square. Are you an anti-theist?]

Yes, I'm aware of Madison's arguments, and there are even more of them. They are valuable but not entirely the last word. And anti-sectarianism, not secularism, was the motivating factor in the Founding, which Madison touches on here.

But Christmas is a legal national holiday, so dispense with that before I make WS mad again.

5:14 AM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

False positioning, TVD, as I've never acted or believed that the Wiki was more than than a map, albeit a collectively created one, with all the advantages and limitations of such an approach.

Jurgen Habermas is an atheist, but encourages religion in the public square. Are you an anti-theist?

I love how you make a contradictory statement without a blink.

From the Wiki:

Christianity has functioned for the normative self-understanding of modernity as more than a mere precursor or a catalyst. Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in the light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.

That is not the position of an atheist, no matter how you attempt to spin it.

And anti-sectarianism, not secularism, was the motivating factor in the Founding, which Madison touches on here.

From the Wiki on Sectarianism:

Non-sectarians espouse that free association and tolerance of different beliefs are the cornerstone to successful peaceful human interaction. They espouse political and religious pluralism.

Again:

Secularism is generally the assertion that certain practices or institutions should exist separately from religion or religious belief.

Which is why the Constitution stipulates that no religious oath or test shall be required of any who would serve in the American government.

But Christmas is a legal national holiday, so dispense with that before I make WS mad again.

I'm reminded of a character from the DeCamp novel Lest Darkness Fall, who claims to be a victim of religious persecution because those of other sects(All Christian, in this case) are allowed to live and spread their heresies.

This is twice where you haven't given a specific example where and how you think a "war on Christmas" has taken place during the last Christmas season.

Making abstract statements is one thing, citing concrete examples of the War on Christmas would help us understand what you think the problem is.

The promotion of an idea that a small minority has an effect or agenda on a given society all out of proportion to their numbers in said society isn't new, cf anti-Freemasonry in early 19th Century America, and is just as illogical and factually-challenged in this instance as it was some 15 decades ago.

Worrying about making someone mad? Now there's a Christianist thought in action.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I admit I didn't follow the War on Christmas 2007, DA, and it appears you're correct. Bill O'Reilly apparently declared victory. However, it was a long haul.

As for hassling over words, DA, which you appear to enjoy, let's try to reach agreement on some.

"Christianist." They do exist, as in, "The Christianists snuck in and wrote 'In God We Trust' all over my money last night."

In fact, Mike Huckabee's 1998 comment, "take this nation back for Christ," is extremely alarming, and a big reason I cannot support him for president. We were never a Christian Nation.

However "Dominionist," a self-described term used by people like RJ Rushdoony, is less prejudicial.

But not wanting to make someone mad would be more properly Christian, not "Christianist." In fact, the two terms might be in opposition here.

As for "sectarian," I use it in terms of the Founding era. Folks were afraid one denomination of Christianity might use its majority to establish power. In fact, John Adams was convinced he lost the 1800 election to Jefferson solely because Adams' Thanksgiving proclamation was seen as too heavily allied with the Presbyterians.

"The National Fast, recommended by me turned me out of office. It was connected with the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which I had no concern in. That assembly has allarmed and alienated Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Methodists, Catholicks, protestant Episcopalians, Arians, Socinians, Armenians, & & &, Atheists and Deists might be added. A general Suspicon prevailed that the Presbyterian Church was ambitious and aimed at an Establishment of a National Church. I was represented as a Presbyterian and at the head of this political and ecclesiastical Project. The secret whisper ran through them “Let us have Jefferson, Madison, Burr, any body, whether they be Philosophers, Deists, or even Atheists, rather than a Presbyterian President.” This principle is at the bottom of the unpopularity of national Fasts and Thanksgivings. Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion."
---John Adams to Benjamin Rush, June 12, 1812. Old Family Letters, 392-93; taken from Hutson’s The Founders on Religion, 101-02.

Now, my readings indicate to me that "religion" is not synonymous with "theism" in the Founding milieu, but with sectarianism. I say this because more generic religious services were held regularly in the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court. And of course, that Christmas is a holiday official recognized by the US federal government, a point that I believe is conclusive.

Its status as a national holiday was challenged as recently as Ganulin v. United States (1999). [This would be a War on Christmas, in my view.] The Sixth Circuit ruled it served a "valid secular purpose." Closing courts on Good Friday has also been challenged. Link.

Now, thanks for the Jurgen Habermas quote, which in WS' expert opinion is bullshit, but a close reading of Habermas, who is on record calling himself a "methodical atheist," indicates that he sees a valid secular purpose in religion without endorsing its truth claims.

So we get into a knot about "secular"---for some it means giving religion the boot from the public square; for others, it means keeping it as an invaluable cultural resource.

I favor the latter interpretation, and arrogate the use of "pluralistic" for it. It's a nice word, with a connotation of tolerance, the greatest of secular "virtues." It may also be a good idea in a practical sense.

"Christianity has functioned for the normative self-understanding of modernity as more than a mere precursor or a catalyst. Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in the light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk."---Jurgen Habermas

4:16 PM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

Legate Van Dyke, you're the one who attempts here to assert that there is a difference between what is legal and what is justice, so for you to be worrying about those who 'hassle' about the meaning(s) of words is quite salubrious, as it reminds me of a direction I don't care to go in when dealing with you.

As for the Founding Fathers, you'd be interested to know that Madison was against chaplains in the Congress towards the end of his life, FWIW.

indicates that he sees a valid secular purpose in religion without endorsing its truth claims.

Which is the basic argument of "God for thee, but not for me" which doesn't reflect well on either party if taken seriously.

So we get into a knot about "secular"---for some it means giving religion the boot from the public square; for others, it means keeping it as an invaluable cultural resource.

Madison believed that both government and religion would be both stronger if kept apart, I would hazard that the years since have been in his favor.

The only problem I have with 'pluralism' is that it's not a term any of the Founding Fathers would've used, but as a description of the current situation is pretty much on the mark.

Habermas seems to me arm-waving and not much else. My German isn't good enough to read Nietzche, nor my Latin adequate for Lucretius, but I can tell BS when I see it.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

But there is a difference between what is legal and what is just, and the difference doesn't depend on twisting the words. In fact, one observer noted that the law is a[n] ass. The same has not been said of justice.

As for Habermas, perhaps he is waving his arms, but unless you know something about the intellectual histories of the religions he names, you're unqualified to judge his claim, unable to refute it, and are arm-waving yourself.

As for Madison, I am aware of his arguments. However, his opinion didn't carry the day, did it?

Government and sectarianism were kept apart, but not necessarily government and "religion." Congress has a chaplain to this day.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Right on, DA.

I think the real heart of this issue--as I mentioned above--is that a certain group of Christians (not most of them, fortunately!) won't be satisfied until Christianity is (as we might say) the official unofficial religion of the U.S. They think that anything less is persecution of Christianity.

Some of these folks are driven by the radically mistaken belief that the country rests on Christian principles, but mostly it's just blind tribalism and the desire to make everybody else believe what they believe--or, at least, act as if they did...or, at least STFU and silently acquiesce while Christianity is "celebrated."

What's really weird about these folks is that they aren't satisfied with an extremely religious *culture*--they demand a religious *government* as well.

Fortunately they're going to lose. But it'll be a long haul.

Kinda too bad in a way because I actually kinda like ceremonial deism, and I expect that'll go away, too.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Grozet said...

nice blog! I didn't take you to be a blogger, but it makes perfect sense.

Oh I suppose I should comment on the post. Funny post, but c'mon now. They call the Christmas tree on a certain campus you teach at the "Winter Tree". Does that not smell of overgrown secularism to you?

3:02 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Quite so, Mr. Grozet. The ACLU went after the X in Xmas as recently as 2006. The War on Christmas was quite a real thing.

But Bill O'Reilly defeated them, and in 2007, the ACLU signaled their surrender by joining a bunch of Christianist lunkheads in religionist song.

Now, WS is correct that there are still some Dominionists who seek to "restore" America as a Christian Nation, something it never was. But their confusion is due to a) a reaction to the revisionist history of the 20th century that tried to cast America's Founding as secular ---for practical purposes atheistic or at least non-theistic---and b) some phony quotes on the internet and the revisionism of 19th century "historians" who recast the Founding as essentially Christian.

The truth lies somewhere in between. WS and DA bristle at Jurgen Habermas' [and my] contention that the concept of the fundamental equality and dignity of the human person originates in Judeo-Christian principles. Perhaps they are correct. However, it should be less controversial that were a lot of Christians hanging around at the time of America's Founding, and they would not have agreed to or signed the Constitution if it had been in conflict with Christian principles. [The shame of the compromise on slavery being sui generis.]

This, I think, will be where the issue resolves, where pluralism permits a freedom of religious expression, that keeping Christmas doesn't require anyone to believe Jesus was God, and where new and novel judicial interpretations of the Constitution aren't used as a weapon against American society.

Because, per Montesquieu, law attends and reflects its society and not the other way around. If the law is master and not servant, it is tyranny. Law in conflict with its own society's principles is unjust, and cannot stand.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Grozet,

Meh, I guess I can't get too worked up about "winter tree" instead of "Christmas tree." Coupla points:

(a) The Xmas tree IS, in fact, a pagan symbol anyway. Christianity was the great assimilator--that's the key to it's success in Europe. (Sidebar: ever wonder what rabbits and eggs have to do with Easter? Pagan fertility symbols, assimilated to coax the deeply pagan Euros into the fold...)

(b) Partially b/c of (a) (above)the Xmas tree is a great candidate for a non-secular holiday symbol. I'm all for it. Strip off the secular 'Christmas' label, explicitly acknowledge its non-Christian origins, and voila! A nice symbol that we can stick up even in public places in our secular democracy.

(c) The business about fiddling with terms to make them more generic DOES show up among the PCs in very irritating ways...I couldn't agree more. In fact, I've got a whole riff on that which I'll regale you with sometime. But in this case, my quick judgment is that I'm willing to put up with it.

The overall point here is that we face a real, though non-disastrous, problem. We've got a religious majority that celebrates a holiday that has become largely secularized (Santa Clause, Xmas trees, presents, etc). Because of the largely secular nature of the holiday, it seems a little weird to get all bent out of shape about it when the state participates in its celebration. Yet the holiday is largely religious as well, and clearly the state should not privilege one religion over others. I actually think that the U.S. is doing a pretty good job of working its way through this problem. We'd be doing a better job if there were fewer kooks on the right trying to cause trouble...but they're fighting a losing battle. I think we're clearly headed for a perfectly reasonable compromise of some sort, that emphasizes the secular nature of Xmas, includes the holidays of other religions and so forth.

(Note: there are also some nutty uber-atheists trying to incite trouble, but they're pretty few and far between, so I don't give them much thought.)

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Because, per Montesquieu, law attends and reflects its society and not the other way around. If the law is master and not servant, it is tyranny. Law in conflict with its own society's principles is unjust, and cannot stand."

Which is why you, of course, oppose efforts to use the coercive power of the state to restrict abortion; we can't allow a certain segment of society to impose its morality on society at large by using the law as *master*, rather than servant. Right?

12:27 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

re: the bit above about Xmas trees: at one point I write 'non-secular' when I clearly mean 'non-sectarian.'

We at Philosoraptor regret the error...

12:50 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Then I do it again later writing 'secular' instead of 'sectarian'.

I shouldn't try to blog first thing in the morning.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

O.k., too many hasty comments, but just one more, G:

Imagine that, say, a Buddhist trend suddenly grips the U.S. tomorrow, and that twenty years from now Buddhists are in the majority, and in a position to keep all Christian symbols out of official government places and functions, and to put Buddhist symbols there.

It's odd to me that conservatives never seem to perform this very simple and obvious thought experiment. The odds that the conservatives who are now defending official endorsements of Christianity would defend such official endorsements of Buddhism are...well, zero.

My position is consistent across all such thought experiments: keep religion out of government and government out of religion. That's the way the most important Founders--e.g. Madison--wanted it, and, more importantly, they were right.

Christian conservatives do not actually think that religion in government is a good thing--they think that THEIR religion in government is a good thing. But even a smidgen of objectivity reveals the problem there.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

a reaction to the revisionist history of the 20th century that tried to cast America's Founding as secular ---for practical purposes atheistic or at least non-theistic

If you could demonstrate a specific example of such revisionism, that would be helpful in this discussion.

As for the ACLU 'going after Christmas", you might want to check your facts, Legate Van Dyke

“It is unfortunate that we had to go to court to protect religious freedom but we had no other choice. We are pursuing this lawsuit so that Wilson County residents can decide for themselves whether or not they want to practice a particular religious faith,” said ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg.

School administrators repeatedly disregarded the family’s requests and continued to promote and sponsor activities like “Prayer at the Flag Pole” and “Praying Parents,” whose members enter classrooms and tell students that they have prayed for them. Rather than taking the family’s requests seriously, the school administrators encouraged the family to withdraw their child from the school.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU of Tennessee argues that the pattern and practice of promoting and endorsing religious activities by the Wilson County public school system is unconstitutional. In addition to “Praying Parents” and “Prayer at the Flag Pole,” the Wilson County school system promotes a range of religious activities, including a National Day of Prayer event and teacher-led classroom prayers, according to the lawsuit.

“Families have the right to decide for themselves whether to pray, when to pray, how to pray, and where to pray. It is the role of the family not the public school to make those very personal decisions,” added Weinberg. “By promoting their own personal beliefs, Lakeview officials are broadcasting a divisive message to the religiously pluralistic community of Wilson County.”

The ACLU filed today’s lawsuit, John Doe and Jane Doe v. Wilson County School System, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The family wishes to remain anonymous because they fear for their child’s safety. The ACLU said the fact that the family does not want to be identified for fear of reprisals further demonstrates the divisions created in a community when the government takes sides on religious issues.

The defendants in the lawsuit are the Wilson County School System; Dr. Jim Duncan, Director of Wilson County Schools; Wendell Marlowe, Principal of Lakeview Elementary School; Yvonne Smith, Assistant Principal of Lakeview Elementary School; and Janet Adamson, teacher at Lakeview Elementary School.

The plaintiffs are represented by ACLU of Tennessee cooperating attorneys Edmund J. Schmidt III and Susan L. Kay.


More recently;

ACLU in Tennessee Court Today to Defend Religious Freedom
Praying by Parents on Wilson County Elementary School Grounds Is Unconstitutional, Says Civil Liberties Group


NASHVILLE - December 12 - A trial stemming from an American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee lawsuit asking for an end to the unconstitutional endorsement of religion at a Wilson County elementary school began today in the United States District Court for the Middle Tennessee District of Tennessee.

The trial was necessitated after the Wilson County School Board on Tuesday rejected a settlement reached earlier this week in which school officials agreed to hold religious activities on the campus of Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet outside of regular school hours and make clear they do not discourage, endorse or promote any religious activities or beliefs.

“We are disappointed the school board rejected the settlement agreement we had reached with Wilson County Schools because we felt it would have been an important step toward greater religious liberty in Wilson County and was in keeping with our goal of protecting religious freedom for all Tennesseans,” said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “But we remain committed to achieving those aims through trial.”

The lawsuit charges that officials from Lakeview Elementary and Wilson County Schools violated the Constitution by encouraging a variety of religious activities to occur on campus, including praying during school hours by a group of parents who then distributed fliers in classrooms informing individual students they had been prayed for.

The lawsuit also charges that teachers at Lakeview Elementary led prayer and religious songs inside school classrooms.


From a regional newspaper:

Testimony about personal faith launched a federal bench trial over separation of church the plaintiffs say wasn't respected in a Wilson County elementary school.

At issue: whether a group called Praying Parents should have been allowed a link on Lakeview Elementary School's Web site, to run announcements in the school newsletter and leave "you've been prayed for" cards for teachers and students.


WS and DA bristle at Jurgen Habermas' [and my] contention that the concept of the fundamental equality and dignity of the human person originates in Judeo-Christian principles.

No, my verdict is 'not proven', no matter how many times you repeat the on about it.

However, it should be less controversial that were a lot of Christians hanging around at the time of America's Founding, and they would not have agreed to or signed the Constitution if it had been in conflict with Christian principles. [The shame of the compromise on slavery being sui generis.]

Well, strictly speaking, they were heretics against the C&E by revolting against the king, and the enshrinement of legal principals derived from non-Judeo-Christian sources such as Anglo-Saxon and Roman law is more to the point than that of "Christian" sources.

where new and novel judicial interpretations of the Constitution aren't used as a weapon against American society.

Again, a specific example would be helpful, especially when using 'collectivist' language at the same time.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, DA, Roe v. Wade is one. Perhaps you've heard of it.

And anonymous, abortion is also sui generis. Opponents believe the guest of honor has human rights too.

But if one reduces the Constitution to abstractions, prohibiting things like cannibalism or necrophilia is unconstitutional too. However, the Founders would have seen such extrapolations as ridiculous, altho this sort of thinking is exactly what's at issue in 2007.

And DA, the revisionism of a non-theistic Founding is right here in this very comments section. Many people are unaware that the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court were used for religious services. Even when they become aware of that fact, some prefer to ignore it.

However, it should be less controversial that were a lot of Christians hanging around at the time of America's Founding, and they would not have agreed to or signed the Constitution if it had been in conflict with Christian principles.

Your retort is somewhat accurate [altho the divine right of kings was dispensed with in England's own Glorious Revolution 100 years before], but the above statement refers not to the revolution, but the Founding, i.e., the signing and ratification of the Constitution. It should be addressed in that context, if you choose to.

Stronger arguments can be made against "religion" in the federal government, but pluralism-federalism allowed the states things like blasphemy laws, religious tests for statewide office, and keeping holy the Sabbath by forcing businesses to close on Sundays. None of these were unconstitutional, which makes the current federal government-Supreme Court interventions into local matters new and novel.

I believe that addresses your question. A reply to that quite relevant argument would be appreciated. The 13th Amendment may be the best counterargument, altho I'm not sure how a manger violates anyone's full protection of the law, unless you get reallllllly abstract about it.

And Madison was quite into federalism, if you dig beneath the surface, BTW.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And anonymous, abortion is also sui generis. Opponents believe the guest of honor has human rights too."

Begging the question. That *belief*, that the "guest of honor" has rights too, is being forced upon other non-believers by laws that would outlaw abortion.

And I'm fairly confident that all reasonable people agree that the cannibalized and necrophilated have rights as well, so those examples are really red herrings.

And if by *federalism*, you mean more localized control/states' rights (a misnomer if there ever was one, as only people can have rights), Madison most certainly was not a strong believer in that; in fact, he warned against its dangers in Federalist #10:

"The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.

Hence, it clearly appears, that the same advantage which a republic has over a democracy, in controlling the effects of faction, is enjoyed by a large over a small republic,--is enjoyed by the Union over the States composing it. Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments. Does it consist in the greater security afforded by a greater variety of parties, against the event of any one party being able to outnumber and oppress the rest? In an equal degree does the increased variety of parties comprised within the Union, increase this security. Does it, in fine, consist in the greater obstacles opposed to the concert and accomplishment of the secret wishes of an unjust and interested majority? Here, again, the extent of the Union gives it the most palpable advantage.

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State."

3:57 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, #10 is very good. In fact, it supports my previous contention that sectarianism was the prime political concern, not "religion."

"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

--James Madison,
Federalist No. 45

So what is Madison saying? That the federal government should be the Big Hand that decides everything? Doesn't look like it. See also the Tenth Amendment.

And keep in mind, my objection was to the courts, and Madison warns in several places that no branch of government is given absolute power.

[And thank you for a good argument, albeit on a relatively minor aside.]

5:11 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Questions about constitutionality aren't actually the only questions in play here. Many conservatives, of course, quixotically try to spin the first amendment in a direction that would allow the state to favor Christianity. But--unconstitutional though that is--there are also questions about what a good and reasonable government would do even if it DID have the power to favor one religion.

It's about as obvious as it can get that--especially in a country like the U.S.--no religion should be made the unofficial official religion. Again, this point would be obvious to Christians if we had a Buddhist majority, and it is, even now, obvious to those with a modicum of objectivity about the matter. (See the easy thought experiment above.)

Since it would be unreasonable and illiberal to favor one religion, we seem to be moving toward some combination of (a) emphasizing the secular aspect of Christmas and (b) recognizing the observances of other major religions.

Seems to be working just fine.

And you're quite right about the ACLU, DA. Without them, we'd be screwed. Even despite their efforts, though, indoctrination and intimidation go on in schools. Every week in my colleague's kid's school, the kids are trooped across the street for religious indoctrination. If they go, they get candy and a break from school. If not, they are, in effect, punished with extra schoolwork and significant disapprobation.

Secularism will win these fights, of course. But one worry: currently churches are some of the only social institutions that are supposed to be pushing back against the cult of the market. As religion loses influence in the U.S., it seems that the cult of the market will grow even more astoundingly powerful unless some other institutions take the place of churches.

The cult of the market continues to try to convince everyone that our economic value is our only value. That's something Christianity in particular is officially against...though many or most Christians are eager to push the anti-capitalist, anti-wealth aspects of Christianity under the table. (Witness, e.g., the frantic spinning of the camel/eye of the needle passage in the Bible in an attempt to make wealth downright Christian.)

On one way of looking at it, a major struggle in our culture is taking place between churches and the free market. Many other institutions *could* do the job of churches...but *will* they? Christian churches aren't doing a very good job, actually...so that's an important point too, I guess...

8:14 AM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

Legate Van Dyke, it may shock you to learn that many of us who've heard of Roe vs. Wade don't consider it

a weapon against American society.

but rather, an upholding of the principle that bodily autonomy and integrity cannot be abolished for an entire class of citizens willy-nilly.

And DA, the revisionism of a non-theistic Founding is right here in this very comments section.

If your proposition is correct, then it should be easier to document your assertion by citing the time of the comment and quoting its' content as well.

"When you find yourself in a hole, the first rule................."

Many people are unaware that the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court were used for religious services. Even when they become aware of that fact, some prefer to ignore it.

But that doesn't support your original statement about revisionism, unless you are stating that this ignorance is part of the revisionist campaign as well.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

And what mistake are you making, DA?

12:37 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, a number of mistakes that he hoped nobody noticed.

Like Habermas' atheism; invoking the divine right of kings in his "heretics" remark, even though the Puritan revolution of 1688 made his contention almost 100 years out of date; invoking Madisn's objection to congressional chaplains, even tho he lost that fight [and if I recall, was opposed chiefly to the government financing of them]; omitting that the ACLU alleged irreparable harm to children who sand religious-themed Christmas carols, instead printing a lengthy recitation of the ACLU's official line; misusing "Christianist," and of course using the Wikipedia of all things to try to score points on semantics.

But some noticed. Perhaps he'll acknowledge one or two of them, or you will, WS, altho I'm agnostic and unhopeful.

As for Roe v. Wade, I'm familiar with the reasoning. However, even many on the left agree it was an arrogation by the courts of what should be decided by the people.

And the use of the halls of congress and the Supreme Court for religious services at the time of the Founding is a point ignored by or unknown to those who blandly mouth "separation of church and state," as if it has no meaning in the Founding context.

The situation was more complex, and quite different from the anti-theistic "neutrality" that has replaced the original 1000 flowers of pluralism.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

No, none of those are the real mistake...

4:13 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Still no acknowledgement. Sigh.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

Like Habermas' atheism

Except that Habermas is on the record as describing himself as a 'methodical atheist' as can be seen here

Google search for Jurgen Habermas methodical atheist

invoking the divine right of kings in his "heretics" remark, even though the Puritan revolution of 1688 made his contention almost 100 years out of date

Not really, the Glorious Revolution, in the collective words of the Wikipedia:

The Revolution of 1688 is considered by some as being one of the most important events in the long evolution of the respective powers of Parliament and the Crown in England. With the passage of the Bill of Rights, it stamped out once and for all any possibility of a Catholic monarchy, and ended moves towards monarchical absolutism in the British Isles by circumscribing the monarch's powers. These powers were greatly restricted; he could no longer suspend laws, levy taxes, make royal appointments, or maintain a standing army during peacetime without Parliament's permission. Since 1689, government under a system of constitutional monarchy in England, and later the United Kingdom, has been uninterrupted. Since then, Parliament's power has steadily increased while the Crown's has steadily declined.

Which disproves my point not one whit.

invoking Madisn's objection to congressional chaplains, even tho he lost that fight [and if I recall, was opposed chiefly to the government financing of them];

I did not invoke, I merely brought it up to show the range of thought amoungst the "Founding Fathers.

omitting that the ACLU alleged irreparable harm to children who sand religious-themed Christmas carols,

That wasn't in their press release stating their case against the school district, and wasn't in the court proceedings, AFAIK.

instead printing a lengthy recitation of the ACLU's official line

As well as an excerpt from the actual court proceeding, you know, where each sides' 'lengthy recitation' of their official line gets tested by the legal system.

misusing "Christianist,"

It's called sarcasm, Legate Van Dyke, you've been known to attempt it here with your remarks about not getting WS angry, I thought your effort deserved some sort of recognation.

However, even many on the left agree it was an arrogation by the courts of what should be decided by the people.

Sorry, there's the collectivist impulse again, we went through that with Prohibition, you'd think some folks would learn.

and of course using the Wikipedia of all things to try to score points on semantics.

I didn't know that the Wikipedia was an invalid resource, or that it has been determined conclusively that I either failed or succeeded in attempting to score points.

And the use of the halls of congress and the Supreme Court for religious services at the time of the Founding is a point ignored by or unknown to those who blandly mouth "separation of church and state," as if it has no meaning in the Founding context.

You've mentioned this already, and I don't know of anyone on this thread blanding mouthing 'separation of church and state', as WS noted on this thread what we have is a form of Ceremonial Deism that will perhaps will die off in the distant future.

The situation was more complex, and quite different from the anti-theistic "neutrality" that has replaced the original 1000 flowers of pluralism.

Demonstrate your '1000 flowers of pluralism' with quotes from the Founding Fathers or reasonable historical interpretation of their intention to back up your claim.

This is the secont time I've asked for specificity, not that anyone is probably paying attention.............

Meat, rather than the bones of mere assertion, would be helpful in this case and in general, were you more interested in shedding light instead of more heat around here.

WS, my mistake was asking Legate Van Dyke to use facts or reasoning to deal with the issues I've raised, and/or that he'd be more knowledgeable about someone he considers on his side.

Mea culpa.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

No, the Wiki isn't a source. And posting things that simply omit the point in question, which you did twice here per the ACLU and Glorius Revolution, doesn't prove your point.

And I did give you specifics of 1000 flowers:

"...pluralism-federalism allowed the states things like blasphemy laws, religious tests for statewide office, and keeping holy the Sabbath by forcing businesses to close on Sundays. None of these were unconstitutional, which makes the current federal government-Supreme Court interventions into local matters new and novel."

And you explicitly wrote about Habermas:

"That is not the position of an atheist, no matter how you attempt to spin it."

which somehow expects an intellectual dishonesty, that one's own disbelief prevents giving Judeo-Christianity its due. That is the position of an atheist, Habermas.

It's all there in plain English for all to see, no matter how you try to spin it. Why do you think no one can read it what you wrote?

Look, better luck next time. Try reading both sides of an issue first---like Madison's objection to government funding of chaplains---instead of posting the first thing you find that appears to contradict me, which is, after all your mission, not seeking truth or understanding.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

...and I was quite sincere about not making WS angry, DA, especially on a bone of previous contention. I like and respect him.

Sparring is good for the body, soul and mind, and I hope you consider what you do with me as sparring, and not a blooodmatch. I don't take it to heart. We're fellow Americans after all.

1:48 AM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

like blasphemy laws, religious tests for statewide office, and keeping holy the Sabbath by forcing businesses to close on Sundays. None of these were unconstitutional, which makes the current federal government-Supreme Court interventions into local matters new and novel.

Since these are all measures that favor Christianity in general, one cannot call it a '1000 flowers blooming' approach.

One could make the case that Brown Vs. The Board of Education was a "goverment-Supreme Court"(a most cumbersome locution--you should read some Orwell sometime about such things) intervention into local matters that was new and novel as well.

Somehow, I don't think you want to go there.

As for Habermas, I'm of the opinion of C.S. Lewis, that to advocate or otherwise endorse Christianity for any other reason that because one believes it's true is a false position.

It's all there in plain English for all to see, no matter how you try to spin it. Why do you think no one can read it what you wrote?

Can you tell us when you were appointed the determiner and decider here of what is spin?

Your attempt to use insults and rhetoric in place of logic and facts is there in plain English,
such arguments do nothing to bolster your position or credibility here. They smack of desperation and flop sweat, FWIW.

Look, better luck next time.

Look, Legate Van Dyke, being patronising when you're worried about getting other folks around here angry doesn't help your case, and thought is what is needed in your responses, as anyone who wants to see your past rantings in the archives can see for themselves.

Try reading both sides of an issue first---like Madison's objection to government funding of chaplains---instead of posting the first thing you find that appears to contradict me, which is, after all your mission, not seeking truth or understanding.

Thanks for the mind-reading act, is your telepathy the reason you do so well at your chosen profession?

instead of posting the first thing you find that appears to contradict me, which is, after all your mission, not seeking truth or understanding.

As in the case of the ACLU and the 'war on Christmas'.

I don't take it to heart. We're fellow Americans after all.

You really are that clueless, TVD, after the stuff you wrote in your previous post?

Thanks for helping me formulate my first New Years Resolution, this one I won't be tempted to break for a while.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Can you tell us when you were appointed the determiner and decider here of what is spin?


Actually, you were the first to use that type of rhetoric---once again, it's there in black and white. A look at my record here shows I take great pains to avoid it, and declarations that the other fellow is wrong, except on points of historical fact.

As for Habermas, I'm of the opinion of C.S. Lewis, that to advocate or otherwise endorse Christianity for any other reason that because one believes it's true is a false position.


I don't think that stands up to close inspection. And for the record, I use the neologism "Judeo-Christianity" to get rid of as much troublesome dogma as possible.

But as always, the discussion is now chasing its own tail. As a final note and irony, WS' comment on the materialistic view of man taking over was a major concern of Habermas' early work, that a universal corporate [and soulless] culture would gain primacy, and the western world would have no resources to draw upon against it. Hence, his good words for the western religious tradition late in his life, as it provides those resources.

Other traditions would theoretically fill the bill; however, their own philosophical character and the fact that they are not in place in the west renders that moot.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

Actually, you were the first to use that type of rhetoric---once again, it's there in black and white. A look at my record here shows I take great pains to avoid it, and declarations that the other fellow is wrong, except on points of historical fact.

No, a look at your record shows a tendency to declare victory at the slightest provocation, especially when facts and logic aren't on your side, as in this case, where the historical fact is that the ACLU didn't sue the school board in TN because of Christmas songs being sung in school.

I don't think that stands up to close inspection. And for the record, I use the neologism "Judeo-Christianity" to get rid of as much troublesome dogma as possible.

Again, Legate Van Dyke, a little arm-waving doesn't dispel my logic, and changing your terms doesn't increase the facts and logic on your side.

As a final note and irony, WS' comment on the materialistic view of man taking over was a major concern of Habermas' early work, that a universal corporate [and soulless] culture would gain primacy, and the western world would have no resources to draw upon against it.

That doesn't necessarily lead to Christianity or another religion being the refuge against Consumerism.

Other traditions would theoretically fill the bill; however, their own philosophical character and the fact that they are not in place in the west renders that moot.

Actually, lots of 'other traditions' are in place in the West at this time, they are in an minority status at this time, admittedly, but out of the mud comes the lotus.

Thanks for the lesson in sophistry, so that others can avoid the errors you've made on this thread.

30.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

It was you who introduced charges of "spin" to the discussion, and it's there for all to see. Then you move to a "you always" argument, accusing me of your own faults.

As for the Christmas carols, it's in the link I provided. You either missed it or ignored it; either way, it's led to nonsense.

And I never claimed anything necessarily leads to Christianity, only that it has a salutary effect on a society.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous The Dark Avenger said...

Try reading both sides of an issue first---like Madison's objection to government funding of chaplains---instead of posting the first thing you find that appears to contradict me, which is, after all your mission, not seeking truth or understanding.

That's an example of your spin that you may remember typing a while back, and one of the reasons people find you so exasperating around here.

If you don't want to be called on your spin, then engage in seeking after the truth and understanding here instead of trying to be both participant and scorekeeper when things aren't going your way, which is perhaps your bad luck to account for the fact that it happens a lot around here........

As for the Christmas carols, it's in the link I provided. You either missed it or ignored it; either way, it's led to nonsense.

Perhaps you ignored this from one of my links:

The lawsuit charges that officials from Lakeview Elementary and Wilson County Schools violated the Constitution by encouraging a variety of religious activities to occur on campus, including praying during school hours by a group of parents who then distributed fliers in classrooms informing individual students they had been prayed for.

..............................

The lawsuit seeks a court order preventing Wilson County Schools from violating the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution by promoting religious activities during the school day school day.

Now, only the paranoid or the confused would conclude that this would equal Christmas carols not being allowed to be sung, and I've linked to one 'Independent' source to demonstrate that the assertions made in the ACLJ link don't give a 'fair and balanced' view of this supposed battle in the War Against Christmas.

And I never claimed anything necessarily leads to Christianity, only that it has a salutary effect on a society.

To this day, there is no alternative to it.

Agree, disagree, no opinion?

12:47 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

From the ACLJ link I posted, which appears to have direct quotes from the ACLU lawsuit:

The ACLU claims that the plaintiffs have been harmed, injured and “suffered irreparable damage” through the Christmas program because of its “Christian themes and songs.”

I just don't get you sometimes, DA. Either you're being disingenuous or you get so angry you simply miss stuff.

As for the interesting and substantive part of the discussion, I do tend to agree with Habermas, mostly for "is" reasons, not "ought."

There is some arm-waving in the general direction of Immanuel Kant as an alternative, but he's almost unreadable, and surely doesn't have the human impact of a bearded martyr on a hill telling us we should love our enemies and bless those who curse us [which is also quite counter-intuitive]. Secular humanism has some of the same structural promblem.

Neither is it clear that Judeo-Christianity should be tossed out in favor of Kant or secular humanism. A pluralistic view would allow for all things salutary to co-exist, the more the merrier.

Do Christmas carols and nativity scenes threaten Immanuel Kant? I'm of the opinion they do not.

As for some of the things the ACLU opposed [in their incomplete account of their lawsuits], you might find me in agreement with some of them. I'm no Christian Nationist, and in fact took some heat from one for my more nuanced view, which I consider a badge of honor:

http://ourfoundingtruth.blogspot.com/2007/07/jon-rowe-from-positive-liberty-and.html

[Altho he had some good points, especially about natural law.]

4:18 PM  

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