The Attorney General of the United States of America recently gave a speech on religious freedom at the University of Notre Dame. In that speech he claimed that our traditional moral system was being undermined by attacks from the media, academia, and secularists. He is sorely mistaken.
The Constitution of the United States guarantees religious freedom and guarantees that the government shall never establish a state religion. The First Amendment says it so well, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In later court decisions, the Supreme Court of the United States has determined that government entities, such as schools, city/county governments, and others, encouraging religious activity in group prayer, religious teaching, or taking actions governed by religious traditions is illegal.
Prayer in school is not banned. Religious people and children of religious people may pray as much as suits them. However, the government agency may not endorse or participate in religious activity. A person may be as religious as they please, they are protected by the law to be as religious as they see fit. Wear a hijab, a crucifix, turban, sandals, or carry a cross on their back across the entire nation. They are protected and have every right to do so.
However, as the Attorney General uses it, “religious freedom” is a code word for government approval of Christian evangelism. Many people believe that religion has done as much harm as good. For those who think Christianity has “been a major force in giving us science, universities, liberty, and the values that still instruct…” one only need look at the history of science and Christianity.
Until the Renaissance, Christianity determined science without concern for experimentation or validity relying on myth and tradition to interpret nature. Christian fundamentalists believe that Noah took two of each of the estimated 8,700,000 species onto the Ark less than 6000 years ago. Still today, Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., demands oaths from professors of science that creationism, not evolution, has been the source of all life on earth. Bryan College dismisses educators unable to totally endorse creationism as their world view. Christian dogma such as practiced by Bryan College does not contribute to scientific knowledge.
The mythology of religion has brought us this far in our history, for better and worse. Consider that the “big books” of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism were not written until decades after the events they describe. Up until the stories were put to paper, oral telling of the record was left to the protagonists. Those people were subject to historical myth telling, politics, prejudice, and tribalism much like we are today. To believe that the true stories survived accurately is a belief fewer and fewer people are willing to adopt.
Religion is in steep decline. The rigidity of the traditional religions leaves an educated populace with no basis in truth from their teachings. The religiose deny a need for relativity in moral and ethical decisions while accepting factual incongruence with Bible teachings as “God’s mystery” of which we are not capable of understanding. This approach is no longer acceptable to the learned in our society.
Those who remain religious should remain vigilant as well, defending their deeply held beliefs as their own, as the beliefs of their own associations. Politicians, and their minions, will prey upon the believers convincing them they are victims of the secularists. Nothing is further from the truth. Secularists do not care about believers continuing in their faith practices. It is unimportant what one does in the worship of one’s deity. Politicians and religious leaders will use victimhood to garner votes and forge ahead with their own political agenda that is wrapped in the sanctity of the religious. The religious must read closely the proposals, consider the teachings of your prophets and not the interpretations of the politicians.
Lincoln Christensen is a resident of Richmond, KY. He is a life-long Unitarian Universalist, political independent, socially liberal fiscal conservative and free thinker.