A Different Kind of Blog

news and things sacred and irreverent put together by opinionated people.

A Caveman’s View on Church vs State

Posted by lawman2 on December 6, 2008

churchstateseparationI may not believe what you believe, but
I believe you have a right to believe it! I just happen to be an atheist, but that does not mean that I am anti religious…I don’t care if you hold your own religious beliefs I just want the right to not hold any myself. 

Myth:
This “separation of church and state” is anti-religion

 

Response:
popewithmodelThis argument is a common strategy among those who want to appear to support the right to the freedom of religion. They correctly point out that the government cannot be hostile to religion, but by twisting things around they make it seem as though attempts by the government to remain detached from religious issues is a form of hostility. In this way, they attempt to get government involved with religion and religion involved with government, as if that were a solution to what is in reality a non-existent problem.

What many forget is that the separation of church and state not only protects the state, but also protects their religion from government interference. And, just as importantly, it protects religion from being made trite and irrelevant by virtue of its involvement with the state.

cavemanIn the first place, it is obvious even to most of those who deny that there should be any such separation that the state should not be allowed to interfere with churches. There simply cannot be any religious freedom if the state is allowed to dictate to churches what they may and may not teach, what permissible dogmas they can hold, and so on.

But what is not quite so obvious is how the state ultimately trivializes religion when the two get mixed together. The state is not permitted to promote particular religious doctrines as religious doctrines, that much is clear – but in the attempt to do it anyway, some really poor rationalizations are used. The most common is that we aren’t really dealing with “religion” anymore and that the doctrine, symbol, or words have magically become “secular” over the course of time.

histor1But do devout Christians really want their holidays, their religious symbols and quotes from their savior, Jesus Christ, treated by the state as irreligious, secular components of society? Does that really make any sense at all? There are two choices: argue that these religious symbols and words are secular in order to get government endorsement, or reject government endorsement in order to preserve their religious nature. Truly devout believers can only justify the latter option – which leaves open the question of the true motivation of those who follow the first choice.

Throughout American history, many Christians have recognized that the separation of church and state protects Christianity as well as other religious faiths. Roger Williams, for example, argued very explicitly that in order to try and keep the Church pure from the influences of evil, it is necessary to keep it separated from civil government. More than that, however, he also thought it was important for the state that it, too, be kept separate from the workings of the church:

Magistrates [officials of the civil government] have no power of setting up the form of Church Government, electing Church officers, punishing with Church censures, but to see that the Church does her duty herein. …And on the other side, the Churches as Churches, (though as members of the Commonwealth they may have power) have no power of erecting or altering forms of civil government, electing of civil officers, inflicting Civil punishments (no not on persons excommunicated) as by deposing Magistrates from their Civil Authority, or withdrawing the hearts of the people against them, to their laws, no more than to discharge wives, or children, or servants, from due obedience to their husbands, parents, or masters; or by taking up arms against their Magistrates, though he persecute them for conscience. (Roger Williams, Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience (1644), page 248-249).

James Madison expressed a similar sentiment when he said “Religion flourishes in greater purity without than with the aid of government.” In a letter from 1819, he further noted that “the number, the industry and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church and state.” In neither case were these men expressing a position which was anti-religion. On the contrary, they both believed that religion is important to people and wanted to ensure that it would be able to continue doing good by separating it from the power of the state.

It is important to keep in mind the fact that the United States is a country where religious belief and religious diversity are usually greater than in most other places. In countries where there is an established church and/or official state support for religion, both belief and diversity is generally lower. If the separation of church and state was really anti-religion, it would have to be argued that religion has flourished here more than elsewhere in spite of separation rather than because of it.

I have yet to see anyone actually make a case for the former, while the case for the latter has been made quite often. Instead of even trying, books and articles attacking church/state separation normally ignore this issue and only focus on a few incidents where Christians have had problems due to separation claims.

I posted this in response to David’s post Don’t Let Activist Atheists Rewrite History

 

You can read more caveman’s perspectives from lawman Just A Caveman

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8 Responses to “A Caveman’s View on Church vs State”

  1. douglaskev said

    i think you made a good point that people don’t realize:

    attempts to mix religion and their views into government opens a dangerous backdoor for government to meld in the affairs of religion….

    Like

  2. Lawman2 said

    hey douglaskev!great seeing you around again!i have enjoyed your site many times! http://socialjusticenow.wordpress.com/
    There is a new great post on there …And Justice For All?

    Like

  3. […] But what is not quite so obvious is how the state ultimately trivializes religion when the two get mixed together. The state is not permitted to promote particular religious doctrines as religious doctrines, that much is clear – but in the attempt to do it anyway, some really poor rationalizations are used. The most common is that we aren’t really dealing with “religion” anymore and that the doctrine, symbol, or words have magically become “secular” over the course of time. A Caveman’s View on Church vs State […]

    Like

  4. douglaskev said

    lawman, it is always a pleasure to meet a kindred blogger. thanks for the promotion ^_^

    Like

  5. Lawman2 said

    you’re quite welcome!

    Like

  6. […] defending myself from being bombarded with Christianity from her family and even her (earlier post A Caveman’s View on Church vs State).   But maybe that is how they felt as well.  Maybe they felt they were defending their faith […]

    Like

  7. The Glenn Beck Review said

    I have a post up about James Madison’s views on the separation of church and state that may interest you.

    Like

  8. princessxxx said

    great post about glenn beck. we have a looney bin on here named [] that is so stupid she believes every word beck says. she has a g.e.d. and she thinks she knows everything. a real psycho, everyone hates her.

    Edited by horsservice 06/14/10 18:50: no name attacks please

    Like

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