Baptist explains why freedom of religion requires public prayer

Russell D. Moore, identified by PuffHo as the “newly-elected president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral concerns and public policy arm of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination,” has a new take on the First Amendment.

In a piece at PuffHo called “Why public prayer is about more than culture wars,” he carefully explains that preventing public prayers is, in fact, preventing freedom of religion.

His inspiration was the White House’s surprising and distressing siding with the defendants in the case of Town of Greece [New York] v. Galloway, in which the town is being sued for opening city council meetings with prayers. This case, which will be heard this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, is pivotal, for if that conservative court allows such prayers, it will overturn decades of precedents preventing public prayer as a violation of the First Amendment.

In his wisdom, Brother Moore tells us that the reverse is true: freedom of religion requires public prayers:

In fact, most of us support voluntary public prayer not because we oppose the separation of church and state but because we support it.

After all, at issue in this dispute, is the supposed “sectarian” nature of these public prayers. Few suggest that any invocation at all is unconstitutional — especially since invocations have been going on in such forums since the Founding Era. The problem is that these prayers are specifically Christian or specifically Jewish or specifically Jewish or specifically Wiccan, or what have you.

But that’s precisely the point. A prayer, by definition, isn’t a speech made to a public audience but is instead a petition made to a higher Being. For the government to censor such prayers is to turn the government into a theological referee, and would, in fact, establish a state religion: a state religion of generic American civil religious mush that assumes all religions are ultimately the same anyway. To remove the “sectarian” nature of prayer is to reduce such prayers to the level of public service announcements followed by “Amen.”

Really? An absence of religion is a “state religion”? That’s reminiscent of the argument that atheism is a religion.

In fact, I suggest that any invocation of god at all is unconstitutional, and that’s been the case for public meetings for a long time.  And it doesn’t matter if the prayers are Jewish, Christian, or Muslim: they’re prayers to a deity, and that presumes, as Moore implies, the existence of a deity.  Well, lots of Americans don’t accept that, and that’s precisely why the government should remain absolutely neutral on the issue of religion, i.e., no prayers at government meetings.

Moore’s piece is in fact the best example of religious doublespeak I’ve seen in a while. Have a gander at this:

Evangelicals pray in Jesus’ name not because we are seeking to offend our neighbors, but because we’re convinced that through Jesus is the only way we have access to God. We can’t do otherwise. Likewise, a Muslim shouldn’t be expected to speak of God as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” because one who could do so isn’t a Muslim at all.

When we allow evangelicals to pray as evangelicals, Catholics to pray as Catholics, Muslims to pray as Muslims, Jews to pray as Jews, we are not undermining political pluralism in our democracy, we’re upholding it.

That’s why these prayers are not an establishment of religion. The clergyperson offering the invocation isn’t an extension of the government. His or her prayers aren’t state-written or state-approved.

It doesn’t matter whether the prayers are state-written or specifically state-approved.  If they’re uttered in public, the institution of public prayer becomes state-approved, and if the founders intended anything, it’s not that we should call on God—whichever God is on tap at the moment—in public meetings.  Or will people like Moore allow atheist “prayers” that specifically call on our humanism and decry the existence of God? Here’s one: “Oh humanity, give us the rationality and access to the facts to make our decisions with wisdom, for there’s no God up there to help us.”

I doubt that would be approved! In fact, I’m not in favor of any invocations at all. Why can’t they just start the damn meeting without words of piety? And why, oh why, do religious people like Moore insist that they be allowed to parade their beliefs before public meetings? Isn’t it enough for them to pray in church, or on their own? The faithful just can’t help themselves from trying to share their Good (But Untrue) News with everyone else.

The infliction of religious beliefs on others who may not share those beliefs is unnecessary and offensive. It’s also divisive. The only divisiveness we need here is a stronger wall between church and state.

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Special illustration by reader Pliny the in Between

182 Comments

  1. Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Wild rhetoric and double speak–is that the best they can do?

    • steve oberski
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      We should b so lucky.

      It’s just part of the fundie totalitarian trifecta of proselytization, child indoctrination and the subversion of a society based on secular values.

    • freethinkinfranklin
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      @luvagent
      you are referring to the buybull, right??

  2. francis
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    //

  3. gbjames
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Frankly, to believe nonsense like Moore’s you’d have to be thick as a brick. Or an evangelical. Or both.

    • Ken
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Brick Evangelical. Hah!

      • freethinkinfranklin
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Evangelical Brick :-)

    • RFW
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Aren’t “evangelical” and “thick as a brick” near synonyms?

  4. Witness
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Preventing praying in public would indeed be violation of free speech. Praying as part of governmental proceedings, such as city council meetings, is the problem.

    • Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      By “praying in public,” I meant, of course, praying at government functions. I have no objection to someone talking to an invisible being in the park.

      • Sastra
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        There’s no “of course” about it (well, yes, we knew what you meant.) But this is the crux of the issue: religious people can’t tell the distinction (or don’t want to make a distinction) between religion out in public where others can see it and religion that is making itself the spokesperson FOR a public which includes non-believers.

        They want to blur the line and invent a multi-meaning deepity which will confuse the issue. So we have to make a point to hammer home the difference as hard and as often as we can.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          Yes, they want to make it look as though they are being prevented from praying in public where we are only asking that there is no inflicted upon group prayer. Theists can pray whenever and wherever they want, just don’t try to force everyone else to take part.

        • Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          Exactly.

          Almost every point theists try to make, whether it be about “public” prayer, god, faith, religion, etc, is based on equivocation. “You can’t rule out a deist god, therefore Jesus.” “I know god exists just like I know my husband loves me.” And so on.

          And on top of that, they remain determined not to see beyond their own noses. It is in their interest also for government to mandate neutrality. I can’t imagine Mr. Moore making his arguments in a Muslim majority. He might even grab a trowel himself!

      • Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        Heck, I don’t even have an issue with someone praying over a test in school…just don’t do that crap over a loud speaker, uhmkaaay…

      • jeremyp
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:17 am | Permalink

        Jesus did:

        “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

        Matthew 6:5-6 (NRSV)

        • jeremyp
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:17 am | Permalink

          By which I mean Jesus did object to praying in public parks.

        • Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          Has there ever been a Christian who consistently followed that (remarkably) clear teaching?

  5. Sarah
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    There has always been a chaplain to the Senate, and the sessions are opened with a prayer.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Which is wrong.

    • peltonrandy
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      What, just because Congress does this makes it constitutionally permissible? I would argue that for as long as Congress has been doing this they have been in violation of the First Amendment prohibition on government endorsement of religion.

      • Sarah
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Non sequitur. Who said it was constitutionally permissible?

        • freethinkinfranklin
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

          we are and have always been an inclusive nation, E Pluribus Unum, religion is in no way inclusive without submission and sorry, but most self respecting americans are not submissive, just ask king george.

        • peltonrandy
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

          Then what was the point of your original comment pointing out that the Senate has a chaplain and the sessions are opened with a prayer? If you were not implying that this is okay under the constitution then what were you attempting to say?

  6. Sastra
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    The whole problem with “voluntary public prayer” comes down to the audience.

    If you are praying in a group and it’s just fine and dandy if other people are talking, moving around, ignoring you and getting on with their business — nothing has to stop, no special attention has to be paid — then you’re doing voluntary prayers out in public. Okay.

    But the minute you use the power of the state to command an audience then you’re off limits. You’re not “forcing” people to pray but you ARE forcing them to acknowledge you, quiet down, be respectful, and recognize that this is a ceremony which ought to include them … but doesn’t. Because they don’t belong as much as you do.

    This guy isn’t talking about religious freedom and a “right” to pray. He’s demanding an audience.

    An audience other than God.

    No can do.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Exactly.

      I get strange looks just for refusing to bow my head. (Which means the pray-ers are spending more time keeping tabs on who’s not with ‘em then they are on the mumbo-jumbo.)

      • freethinkinfranklin
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        i hear ya.. you should see the looks i get when i wear my hat with an “evolveFish ” patch on it and the words “Proud Heathen” under it.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

          :D

          *atheist solidarity salute*

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        I like it when you look around and find other atheists doing the same thing. It’s when atheists find each other. LOL! :)

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

          I wish that happened more often! (I’m sure they’re there, just still reacting as they were taught, “be respectful,” blah blah blah…)

          • gluonspring
            Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:20 am | Permalink

            We need a hand sign or gesture or something.

            • Chris
              Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

              There are as few hand-gestures that I think are suitable but would probably get one lynched.

          • freethinkinfranklin
            Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:14 am | Permalink

            i’ve always felt that respect was to be earned and not handed out like candy.

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes, exactly. When you hold up the meeting for your little ritual, then it becomes “endorsed” by the public entity and is therefore unconstitutional.

    • Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Well said and precisely. These sophists know exactly what they are doing too. They are pandering to a fanatical, credulous audience who will gobble this stuff up and spit it out … talking points anyone?

  7. tomh
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I think it’s as close to certainty as one can get that the Court will allow prayers at the meetings. They’ll justify it with words like “ceremonial” or “historical” or some such nonsense.

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Then it’s time to demand equal time for praise of His Great Noodliness and Ceiling Cat. Seriously.

      • tomh
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s telling that the Court accepted this case, after decades of refusing to hear prayer at public meetings cases. In fact, the last definitive ruling was in 1983, when the Court ruled that lawmakers could begin sessions with prayers, based on an “unambiguous and unbroken history” of such practices. The caveat was that it was constitutional unless the selection of prayer-givers “stem[s] from an impermissible motive,” or, “the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief.” The Court declined to apply the Lemon test in the case, (Marsh v. Chambers).

        The problem in the current case is that the prayers were almost entirely Christian. The 2nd Circuit found this impermissable and the Supreme Court agreed to hear it. The fact that they agreed to hear it convinces me there is a good chance they will reverse.

        • freethinkinfranklin
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:27 am | Permalink

          i tend to agree, i feel yet another politically based ruling coming down the pike, constitution be damned.

  8. Greg Esres
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    “we are not undermining political pluralism in our democracy”

    Let’s start these meetings with Auditing sessions and he’ll change his tune.

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Or some Buddhist meditation, Hindu ritual, Druid ritual, Zoroastrian ritual, etc. Then we’ll hear what they really mean.

      • freethinkinfranklin
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        how about one of the Incas heart grabbing sacrifice to the gods?? is that not “freedom of religion” or is what they really mean is “freedom of MY religion”?

        • gbjames
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

          That would be Aztecs if you want to yank out a heart. Or maybe one of the other local Meso-American groups. Incas would be more inclined to drug you and leave you up on top of a mountain or maybe clobber you with a rock hammer or chop off your head. But in any case, your point stands.

        • gluonspring
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:24 am | Permalink

          Or maybe just an old time animal sacrifice, a dove maybe, as we read so much about in that page turner straight from the mind of Omni-Everything God, Leviticus.

  9. darrelle
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Notice how Brother Moore’s rationalizations implicitly assume the atheist position is not valid?

    And he would really have us believe that all these various religious traditions would get along just fine, give each other equal time standing on Uncle Sam’s shoulders? All of history says differently. That is kind of the whole point of the “founding father’s” experiment of seperation of church and state.

    The most interesting question to me is, does Brother Moore really believe what he says here, has he fooled himself, is he that sheltered and ignorant? Or is he lying?

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      Uh, he’s lying. Or, if we want to be all Tanya-Luhrmannish about it, he’s being disingenuous.

      Or, am I the only one who suspects dissembling when I hear a southern baptist mucky-muck arguing that muslims should be allowed to pray as muslims so that we can help protect religious liberty?

      • gluonspring
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

        Yep. Lying through his teeth.

  10. Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Evangelicals pray in Jesus’ name not because we are seeking to offend our neighbors, but because we’re convinced that through Jesus is the only way we have access to God.

    But why the need do this at government institutions, or in any public place outside of a Church or other private structure devoted to your faith?

    If prayer is 100% effective when done in Sunday service, or at the dinner table, or silently to one’s self, then there should be no reason to also pray at government functions.

    Unless of course, one wants to aggressively evangelize or gain some special, undeserved prominence for one’s beliefs.

    • johzek
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Faith and force are corollaries. Since faith has abandoned reason as a means of convincing others, it craves the power of the state to force its views on them.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Actually, I think this is a good idea. And, I want to be allowed to deliver one of the prayers. I will make it a reading of the results of the double-blind, controlled study of intercessory prayer that showed no statistically significant benefit.

      After all, since atheism is a religion (it must be; Ken Ham says so, and he’s really, really, religious, so he would not lie), I’d just be praying to my god, science.

  11. Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    What needs to happen is that as soon as prayers at the start of a public meeting being, someone starts singing in a loud, out-of-tune braying voice: “La la la la …” in the manner of someone sticking their fingers in their ears. When told to “shush”, that person should then announce that they are praying to their own god. “If it’s all right for *you* to pray to *your* god on council time, then it’s all right for *me* to pray to *my* god on council time.” When your inevitable physical eviction happens, sue the back ends of their bodies.

    • gluonspring
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      LOL

  12. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    A bit off topic, but I’m still puzzled as to why swearing in with your hand on a bible is seen as the ultimate way to promise truthfulness in a court of law.

    Aren’t there any alternatives to that practice?

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Yes, you can instead give an “affirmation,” in most cases. Not that that will help you public opinion standing much…

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Fingers crossed the judge ain’t big on religion then.

        • JBlilie
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          Generally, they don’t have a choice. Even in the US States where it’s still on “the books” that it’s illegal for an atheist to hold public office* or testify in court.

          (* US Constitution, Article VI: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United
          States.
          “)

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      I think in Canada, you can choose to take a civic oath. I’m not sure what that entails. I almost would like to say, “sure, give me the bible but I’m an atheist so if I do lie I won’t care”. Probably a bad way to start a trial though. :D

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        LOL! I’ve thought of that too!

    • Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:20 am | Permalink

      The British are discussing abandoning the bible in courts right now.

      • Chris
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        A non-religious affirmation is possible if you ask. As is using an affirmation on legal documents and processes instead of the default swearing on the Bible. I did this when doing legal stuff related to my latee father’s estate.

        But a change of the default would be nice. It is an annoyance to ask for the non-CofE version!

  13. Kevin
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    What is the purpose of government sponsored prayer? For some it is the shallow, silly idea that the prayer is necessary to guide humans to better decisions about public policy.

    What really motivates all of this nonsense is the sincere dread that people are wrong about their anticipated transcendent existence after death. Furthermore, since the vast majority of believers recognize it is their faith alone that provides them benefit, then the number of people and the formal recognition by public and private institutions is overwhelmingly important to them. They have no evidence so the need for this recognition is paramount. This desire for forced public acceptance is servile and pernicious.

    • Don
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Yep. Their oppression springs from fervent and ineffectual denial.

  14. Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I could almost pretend to get his point…but for one niggling little problem.

    All these official prayers are spoken in the first person plural. “Let us bow our heads in prayer. Dear Almighty Oogity Boogity, we seek your forgiveness for our failings, and we ask for you to guide us in the trying tasks you have set before us. In the name of our bestest friend, Hamala Hamala Ding-Dong, amen.”

    Fuck that noise. I ain’t got nuthin’ to do with your goddamn spooks. Keep them the hell away from here; the adults in this room have serious business to attend to, and we don’t need you nattering on about your lurid fantasies while we try to get some actual work done.

    Oh, and you think you’re going to try to stack the deck in favor of your own position by claiming Oogity Boogity’s sponsorship? Well, you can shove your Hamala Hamala Ding-Dong up your Oogity Boogity for all the good that’ll do you.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • steve oberski
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Amen to that.

      • JBlilie
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        And Ramen to that! :)

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      It reminds me of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm when a bunch of people come to Larry’s house for dinner and some Christian guy suddenly leads a prayer so Larry is all shocked and tells his wife that next dinner he wants more Jews there.

      • Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Must admit, I’m not familiar with that show….

        b&

        • Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          I watch almost less than no tv, but Larry David is really a very funny guy. He was (at least) half the brains behind Seinfeld.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 16, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I could only watch so much because you just found yourself yelling at the TV when Larry was going too far. :)

            The episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with him is hilarious….he’s so eccentric in his eating habits.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:39 am | Permalink

      I think Ben is on to something. If you are good a public speaking, you might stand up after the prayer and simply say that Reverend so-and-so does not speak for me when he says “We”. This, it seems to me, is a better tactic than singing La-la-la as advocated above. It preserves civility and won’t be quite so offensive to those who care about decorum. It’s an opportunity to make a point forcefully.

  15. Diane G.
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    “Evangelicals pray in Jesus’ name not because we are seeking to offend our neighbors . . . ”

    That it happens nonetheless is just a side-effect of being an Evangelical, I guess. So loving, so humble, so Xtian…

    Too bad the White House had to weigh in.
    I’m sure, though, that weighed on any balance of USian public approval, this was a no-brainer of a political calculation.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, you feel like saying, “Yeah but you are offending. You’re that guy. Don’t be that guy.”

    • Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

      And it seems he’s missed the point. Who cares which specific god he’s addressing? Who cares which intercessor he thinks is necessary? The offense is generated by the fact that he thinks his nonsense, whatever it may be, deserves to be imposed on a captive audience.

      Also, no one, in such a context, seeks to offend. It is no apology to say “didn’t mean any offense”. It’s offensive that he thinks we shouldn’t be offended by his attempted imposition. Just like no one ever says “I’m a huge racist” – yet they don’t like it when their children play with other children that have a different skin color.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        That’s definitely a not-pology. (“I’m sorry if anyone was offended…” puts the blame clearly on the offendee.)

      • freethinkinfranklin
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:40 am | Permalink

        in these days when a politician can not even show an inkling to consult with a member of the opposition party, what makes him/her think consult or asking his/her imaginary friend for guidance gives any comfort to folks that just want clean water clean air good schools and fixed bridges?

  16. lisa parker
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    ‘clergyperson’? Is that really a word?

    • Sines
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      It can sometimes be easy to forget, but not all religious people are women-hating assholes. Those are just the most annoyingly loud ones. Or the Catholics, who really deserve a category of their own.

      • lisa parker
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        I just think that replacing every ‘-er’, ‘-ess’ or ‘man with’-person’ makes the language clumsy and sounds dumb. “-er” means a person (or animal,etc)who does ‘-’ and so should be gender-neutral. The’-man’ is supposed to refer to ‘mankind.’ In this particular instance, Moore could have just used ‘clergy’

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          Non-sexist language is a whole ‘nother subject. Let’s not get derailed here… :-)

          • Posted October 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

            Ahem.

            I do believe the proper form is, “Let’s not get derailed hime.”

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Diane G.
              Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

              If only your name were Goran–I could offer the perfect anagram…

              • Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

                You mean you think I’m noble? Awww…that’s so sweet of you!

                b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

                And you could play the organ!

                *shudders to think where this may go…*

              • Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

                Trumpet, actually — though there’re trumpet stops on many organs, so I could see where the confusion might come in….

                b&

              • Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

                Well, Ben, either noble or a gasbag. But based only on that reply, and meant in the absolutely best sense of “gasbag”.
                :D

              • Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

                So, you’re suggesting that I soar to ever greater new heights?

                Gee, guys, I never knew y’all thought so highly of me. Thanks!

                b&

          • lisa parker
            Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

            Just one of those things that annoys me

            • Diane G.
              Posted October 15, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

              I know.

              Naturally I’ve now got a lot of things I’d like to add myself; but I think I’d better stick to my own advice! :D

  17. Sines
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I accept his claim that seperation of church and state leads to a sort of ‘official atheism’. I consider this result to be an unfortunate neccesity of the first ammendment, that does more good than harm, but still takes a stand that I am against, in principle, though not in practice.

    Why? Well let me ask you this. The Aztecs sacrificed people to their gods, because they thought that if they didn’t, the sun would go out. What if they were right? Would you not expect the government to keep tabs on the amount of sacrifice going to the gods? Perhaps offering extra, as an unfortunate necessity, to maintain the sun and allow life on Earth to continue?

    Or, perhaps, Yahweh existed. The government should execute people who have gay sex, not because the government hates gay people, or that Yahweh is the source of morality, but because Yahweh is a serial mass-murderer of people who don’t give into his every whim, and isn’t too picky about collateral damage. Outlawing gay sex would be a wise policy decision for self-defense.

    Whether due to tyranny (in the case of Yahweh) or just cost-of-living (in the case of Aztec gods), existent gods could not be ignored by the government, and good relations with them would be part of public policy.

    By the government not taking a stance on religion, they are acting as though there is no negative consequence to not engaging in religious practice. This means a state of de facto atheism or deism.

    This only highlights the practical truth of atheism/deism though, as we find government runs much more smoothly when we don’t factor deities into our public policy decisions.

    The seperation of church and state is an artificial way to make the government behave as though there is no god. I don’t like it, but the alternative is people who say “Screw the environment, Jesus is due back any minute now!” To paraphrase a statement about democracy, “It’s the worst way of dealing with religion and government, excepting all others.”

    • lkr
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      On this theme, Ken Cuccinelli, gubner wannabe of Virginia tells us that he’s amazed that God hasn’t smitten the US for abortion…

      which is to say he’d be delighted to have any, just any really nasty natural or man-caused disaster…. meanwhile, the house republican caucus sing all 3 verses of Amazing Grace as they do the best to bring on calamity..

      • Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        I don’t recall the statistics exactly, but I think that a large number of pregnancies (50% or greater) end in spontaneous abortions, most of which the mother is unaware. That makes this sky fairy who’s alleged to be running the universe a pretty major abortionist, which may explain Ken’s amazement that the sky fairy hasn’t smitten the US!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s state enforced neutrality. State atheism is more like China or Russia had where the government actively forbids churches and religion. No on is asking to promote irreligious beliefs anymore than promoting religious ones. No preferences for anyone.

      • Sines
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        Which is true.

        But the point is, is that we are BEHAVING as though god was not intervening in the world (hence why I include deism along with atheism). The government may not be coming out and saying “There is no god.” But seperation of church and state mandates behavior that would only make sense if there were no interactive god.

        It’s why I’m against it in princple more than I am in practice. Seperation would be absurd in a world where god was real and interacted with humans. As such, I don’t like using this tactic, because I feel it’s ultimately grounded in a “close enough” trick to get people to comply. The fact that I feel I have overwhelming evidence on my side, such that any rational analysis of the evidence would lead a person to my point of view, doesn’t change that I think it’s a trick, and that I’m not entirely comfortable with it.

        I only defend it because the alternative to institutionalized seperation of church and state is worse. Maybe we’d be end up where all the state-religioned European nations are, but I somehow doubt that would be where we ended up, and it wouldn’t be a pleasent road to get there.

        Again, I’m all in favor of it, I just don’t see how it isn’t, effectively, state-mandated atheism/deism.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        As I understand it there has been 2 atheistic states, not founded on atheism but enforcing it for political reasons solely under dictators, e.g, Albania under Hoxha and North Korea under Kim. “According to Human Rights Watch, free religious activities no longer exist in North Korea, as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom.” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korea#Religion ]

        Russia and China on the other hand has state atheism (an officially atheistic government) AFAIK. They have always enjoyed religious freedom for the large religions:

        - ” Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism are Russia’s traditional religions, and are all legally a part of Russia’s “historical heritage”.” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia#Religion ]

        - “Freedom of religion is guaranteed by China’s constitution, although religious organizations which lack official approval can be subject to state persecution.[223][394] Estimates of religious demographics in China vary. A 2007 survey found that 31.4 percent of people above the age of 16 were religious,[395] while a 2006 study found that 46% of the Chinese population were religious.[396]”

        I’ve assumed that the idea that China and Russia forbids religion is a strawman of christianist persecution complex.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          After I typed that I thought I should have said China under Mao and Soviet Russia. I then thought, nah they’ll know what I mean. :)

    • Sines
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      To elaborate a bit more, let me give another comparison.

      Catholics and Protestants can get behind seperation of Church and State, because both recognize the problem of being in the minority and getting kicked around.

      However, if there were a god, there wouldn’t be both Catholics and Protestants, we’d have some new prophets who’d make it plain who was right, and that sect of Christianity would be the one who’d win all the fights with gods blessing.

      In other words, the only reason you can get ‘competing’ religions to call a truce in the first place, is because there is no god to say who is actually right.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        The only way to be fair is to enforce neutrality. You’re implying that there could be a slippery slope that would lead to a loss of freedom of religion which is odd since most Western democracies recognize freedom of religion specifically in their constitutions.

        Further, if you take your Catholic example, that wouldn’t wash in many countries where Catholics are the majority (mine included) yet there is forced state neutrality and freedom of religion. Funny how no atheists are clamouring to end that and support such notions.

        • Sines
          Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          I’m not implying there is a slippery slope. Just that it’s not the solution I like. But if there is one advantage to the solution, as compared to a more ‘honest’ one, it’s practically immune from the slippery slope. After all, it’s largely the religious enforcing it.

          But they’d have no reason to enforce it in the first place, if only Jesus would come day and clarify what constituted a True Christian. That’s kind of the point. It’s largely enforced by the religious, because their religions are wrong. Nobody would have ever even thought of such a ridiculous idea in a world where the gods were plain spoken and obvious.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

            Then I’m afraid I don’t understand what you find uncomfortable. You said it leads ” to a sort of ‘official atheism’”. It isn’t official atheism. Official atheism looks much different as I’ve outlined. To me, this is very comfortable….I can participate in public with all my catholic, hindu, sikh, jewish etc. friends with no one feeling left out.

            • Sines
              Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

              The practical outcome of it is good, and I don’t really see any downside, in practical terms. It’s a case of using a trick that I would consider an unfair trick if it were used in any other circumstance.

              I’m not sure how else to phrase it…

              Admittedly, it’s not really a big deal. Even the religious are happy to act as though their religion wasn’t true (Christians being scared of death or having pleasent conversations with people that are so depraved they deserve eternal torture).

              The issue is only with the flipside. Letting Baal worshippers continue to peacefully exist along side the Jews, while Yahweh is regularly murdering jews at random because some start worshipping Baal is a foolish idea. Seperation of Church and State wouldn’t work in such a world, and would be a preposterous notion.

              And since I wouldn’t approve of (fictional) others using it, I don’t think it’s fair that I should get to use it. That it produces pretty much universally good results doesn’t stop it from bothering me, perhaps only at a purely philosophical level.

              • gluonspring
                Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

                I see a possible practical downside. It gives the religious something to unite against, to feel oppressed about, to play into their sense of US vs THEM. Also, without a state religious monopoly the entrepreneurial proliferation of sects might give people more options to bounce around to when they feel dissatisfied with one. They can criticize one sect without generalizing to the whole and so insulate religion from universal criticisms. I have wondered if an official religion in the U.S. (from the start, so I’d miss the bloodshed) might have played out more like Europe and if that might be preferable (for me, having been born, as stipulated, after the bloodshed) than the sort of never-ending battle with religion that the separation clause sort of implies (because they aren’t going to give up, you know).

              • gluonspring
                Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:13 am | Permalink

                Oh, and one more. Since it boils down to a legal doctrine that is open to interpretation it ends up sucking everyone into questions about original intent of the constitution, whether we should care about that intent (living document and all), and general appeals to authority (my favorite founder wanted X, well mine wanted Y) that are unseemly all around.

                The case against religion itself is much stronger than any of the particular cases against this or that interpretation of the establishment clause, so it’s a painful sideshow to get sucked into the mush of legal interpretation rather than, you know, basic truths about the universe we live in.

      • gluonspring
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

        “because there is no god to say who is actually right.”

        Oh, there is, he’s just allowing people to exercise their Free Will to be wrong. If he came down and made himself clear, where would the faith be? Where would the Free Will go? ;-)

  18. DrBrydon
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Sophistry is older than the New Testament.

    Mr. Moore is free to try and change the Constitution. The reason it won’t work is that Baptists don’t want Catholics praying at their children any more than Atheists want either doing it. Sectarianism trumps the belief in belief.

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Hindus,
      Zoroastrians,
      Druids,
      Wiccans,
      Scientologists,
      Mormons,
      Buddhists,
      Muslims,
      etc.

      When I hear the Muslim call to prayer as an offical opening at Mr. Moore’s town meeting, then I might entertain believing in his sincerity in presenting his nonsense (though not in the nonsense).

      • DrBrydon
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, JB, and I did not mean to slight any other faith by merely mentioning two Christian sects. I think we need to constantly keep in mind that most Christians elide the differences between themselves when they argue for things like public prayer, as if everyone who was a Christian believed the same thing (which has not been true since Christ got his second disciple).

  19. Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    The guy can’t even get his Christianity right. From what I was always taught, Southern Baptists believe in the Trinity in that Jesus IS God. Jesus is the only way to end up with God in heaven, but you can talk to Him all day long. “In Jesus’ name” is tradition, but it’s not because you have to go through Jesus to talk to God. Come on.

    So, seriously, I wrote a letter recently to my hometown Alabama paper on this issue in response to an incredibly condescending editorial that included the sentence, “We suppose a leading atheist could be invited to not pray at the beginning of the day if such an appeasement were requested.” Public prayer before e.g. legislative sessions are intentionally divisive, and the only point is to send the message that they hold the beliefs and values of Christians above all others. There is no other point to such prayers, as Christians believe God hears you just fine when you pray silently.

    • gluonspring
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

      Whatever their actual doctrines, I think in practice they are often motivated by a much more simple superstition and that in-group/out-group displays are sort of a more recent exaptation of this pre-existing tic.

      Among my religious family saying prayers before meals is clearly motivated by a kind of simple superstition, some sense of fear and dread that if they skip it god will take offense and bad things will happen. It’s never stated so bluntly, but it’s very palpable and never more clear than when someone interrupts the ongoing eating and conversation to make us all do the prayer that we forgot at the beginning. Often these emergency make-up prayers are very very perfunctory, “God thank you for the food, Amen.”, an obvious mere checking of the box: “Said prayer”. It’s long been comic to me precisely because it doesn’t really comport with their official doctrines. And even the Christians themselves sometimes notice this disconnect and joke about it. The joke about it, but they still interrupt the meal to check off the superstition.

      • Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

        Religion as OCD.

        I think a lot of it is, actually.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

          Yes, I see religion as institutionalized OCD.

      • Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        My response to that would be: “Excuuuse me, God didn’t provide this food — *I* did.”

        • lisa parker
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

          Not if you wished to actually eat. My large family includes almost every major religion, and the absence of it, except for Islam and Hinduism (though that might have changed; we have had several weddings since the last big family affair.) There are even representatives of a few minor religions. In a private home, I should think it simply polite to at least be quiet if you have no desire to participate. Lack of religious beliefs does not excuse rudeness.

          • gbjames
            Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

            How is it not rude to force people to put up with prayers at family meals?

            • gluonspring
              Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

              Well, if it’s at my mom’s house, it’s her house, her food, she gets to do it how she likes. I’ve got not problem with that.

              Of course, this OCD tic doesn’t confine itself to home. We can be at a restaurant and some random family member will suddenly insist that we all bow our heads in prayer. It’s frankly embarrassing for those of us consider it nonsense, and not a little aggressive since what is your recourse, to make a scene? The best you can do, socially, in such a situation is maybe not bow your own head. The absolute worst is when they want to hold hands and pray. You can keep your head up in an unobtrusive way and just wait for it to be over, but there is no unobtrusive way to refuse to hold an offered hand. So you hold hands, because you still love your family more than you care about what a shitty thing they’ve doing by putting you into this uncomfortable situation. I’ve probably been a jerk to them too at some point (though never over religion). It’s family. You deal.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

                There is a great deal of latitude between doing nothing and “making a scene”.

                I’d advocate for something like I’ve done in cases like this. I made clear, with a joke, what I thought of the situation.

                What you describe is a form of social coercion that is the hallmark of religion, forcing it upon other people and expecting to be respected for the “good intentions” of the believers. It will continue as long as non-believers just go along.

                When your mom comes to visit your house, do you think she would “have no problem with it” if you insisted on an atheistic “devotion” statement at meal time?

              • lisa parker
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

                -What you describe is a form of social coercion that is the hallmark of religion…-

                No, it is a form of social coercion that is the hallmark of FAMILY every since more than two people shared a cave. There are all kinds of cultural practices dealing with meals that are not in themselves religious, like ritual washing, belching aloud, carving meat, which direction to pass the plates,etc. If you love and respect your family, you just let it slide. If you don’t, just don’t eat with them.

              • lisa parker
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

                Exactly!

              • gbjames
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

                Why, lisa, do you have to “let it slide” but they don’t? Why the asymmetry?

              • lisa parker
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

                Because I have better manners.

              • Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

                I think the two of you are arguing two different sides of the same coin.

                It’s rude manners for a guest to make a scene in response to communal prayer…but it’s just as rude for the host to either assume that all wish to pray or, worse, to hijack the social norms to coerce those who normally wouldn’t pray into praying lest they be rude.

                There is rarely, if ever, a polite way to deal with rude behavior other than by simply ignoring it. However, the moral thing to do is often to call the other on it in the least confrontational manner possible. Not participating in the prayer is likely enough; just sit silently with your hands in your lap and stare ahead. If the host presses the point…well, now you’re into that uncomfortable territory of how to respond to overt rudeness.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • lisa parker
              Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

              Well, you could start with the whole “When in Rome” bit or the “Man’s house is his castle”, but I would say that it’s just good manners. I was taught that when accepting an invitation into anyone’s home, especially when you are very aware of their beliefs, you politely accede to their customs. Especially if your grandparents are there and/or you wish to see most of your family again. This especially true for weddings and funerals. Making a fuss about your cousin saying ‘grace’ before Thanksgiving dinner does not promote family unity, cultural diversity or just plain respect.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

                Respect is a two way street. It is not reasonable for believers to expect participation in their rituals by non-believers.

                What bothers me about your argument is that it is unbalanced. It suggests that nonbelievers have to provide “just plain respect” to the religious but not expect it in return. That’s just wrong.

              • lisa parker
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

                I am advocating ‘just plain respect’ when you are a guest in someone’s home. One assumes that you are familiar with your host’s cultural and/or religious beliefs before you accept the invitation. If it offends you, just don’t go.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

                Which leaves a question or two unanswered.

                Do you expect the same when they visit your home?

                Do you conceal your own cultural/religious ideas from them so they know how to behave with “just plain respect” at your home?

              • lisa parker
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

                When I have guests for dinner, we do not say any kind of prayer before or after meals (except, of course when the accolades to my culinary expertise reach a worshipful levels) I have had guests very unobtrusively bow their heads in a moment of what I assume is silent prayer, but only noticeable if you are looking at them at that moment. We do not concern ourselves with one another’s beliefs.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

                Well that seems fairly balanced.

              • lisa parker
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

                I believe most of the ‘Rest of the World’ consider us to be unbalanced, but we are happy with ourselves. We get all together as often as we can and have a great time. Then we get together in smaller bunches and sadly shake our heads at whoever dares to not be present’s sad descent into senility /heathenism/political liberalism/debt or weight-gain.
                The latest of our family jokes happened at a party in honor of one of the youngest brother’s birthday (think he turned 50 or so; something that warranted a large party.) He sort of straddles Southern Baptism and Irish Catholicism, religiously speaking. Three other brothers were cooking a marvelous feast (crawfish boil as I recall) when our oldest brother (who is Wiccan) walked up to observe. The chefs all began to harass him for never learning to cook. His reply was “Why should I learn to cook? I have two wives.” (His ‘hand-fast’ wife had recently moved into his house.) Tolerance is the only way to civilization.

            • gluonspring
              Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              “When your mom comes to visit your house, do you think she would ‘have no problem with it’ if you insisted on an atheistic ‘devotion’ statement at meal time?”

              Well,I have a problem with being coerced to pray, in case that wasn’t clear. I suck up my problem with it, but I have a problem with it.

              But as to my mom, she wouldn’t make a scene or say anything if I were to insist on such a devotion. She’d probably just never, ever, come to my house again. Not to punish me for my views, but because it would terrify her. You know, with the flames of Hell licking at her feet and all.

              But I guess I agree with your overall point, though, that silence is assent, that things don’t get better for everyone without people speaking up and resisting, that it’s lopsided and unfair of them to expect respect for the silliness of prayer and offer no respect in return, and so on. I guess everyone just has to decide how much they want to personally put on the line for “the cause”, whether they value the general improvement of the state of man over having a quiet dinner with the unchosen group of people who wiped the crap off your butt when you were two and paid your way through college. I’m more likely to take such a stand with some random acquaintances who haven’t done much for me, personally, but I’ll take it under advisement.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

                Well, everybody’s situation is different and I don’t want to be understood as demanding that all atheists “come out”. Perhaps the costs are too high.

                Still, one needs to ponder the degree to which parents (especially) love their children if they would effectively disown them for being non-believers. I am convinced that most of the time the greater trauma is imagined… the fear of losing one’s family by being “out”.

                The history of the gay rights movement has demonstrated that while there are some bat-shit crazy parents who will disown a child for coming out, far more grow up and learn that having a gay kid isn’t a horror. This same thing is true for closeted atheists.

                Isn’t it preferable to have an adult relationship with your parents in which they know who you actually are? Isn’t love among family members dependent on honest understanding of each other?

          • Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

            @lisa parker: My house, my food, my rituals (not that we have any). If your (large) family refuse to let the meal continue because you refuse to say prayers in your own home then your family is seriously dysfunctional.

            As I say, if in my home, when I place the big bowls of pasta and sauce in front of them and somebody *insists* that nobody eat until after the prayers, then a) I will make a mental not of not inviting them again, even if they *are* a close relative (damn the shackles of your family ties, cut the damn apron strings, already) and b) I will say, “Very well, then,” and say a prayer to the FSM, ending it “Ramen”. If this proves a *serious* problem then we have a blinding row and argument about religion, and the unwelcome guests storm out (hungry) and I don’t hear from those tedious personages for several months. Why should I care? I don’t need their constant attention as an emotional crutch, I’m a grown-up.

            In *my* house, *I* am the patriarch.

            • lisa parker
              Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

              I’m afraid that you’ve mistaken my post. In my family we follow (or at least make no fuss if we don’t wish to participate) the customs of the house. Since we shift around the hosting duty, all of us host the bunch at some time or other. In my house, we do not pray before eating, no matter who is there. Occasionally someone will offer an affirmation aloud when it has been a particularly bad or good year, such as when our parents died and when we had Thanksgiving dinner the day I got out of the hospital alive. (despite the grim prognosis of 14 out of 15 of my doctors) Sometimes that involves requesting something and/or thanking god, but it is a rare event and when done offers a great deal of consolation and/or comfort to some of those present, so the rest of us tolerate it quietly.

  20. Matt G
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Simple solution: moment of silence. If this doesn’t make the god-botherers happy, then they are hypocrites.

  21. Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    What about protecting minorities? Is that not one of the constitutions most precious rights? Atheists have rights too. Baptists are doing just fine group praying in their homes and churches. Just don’t do it in public schools and government functions. God, if he exists, won’t feel threatened.

  22. BillyJoe
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I think people here have forgotten how to spell.
    Seperation of church and state?

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      I was going to tell you to knock off the pedantry, till I did a search and found 8 examples of “separation.”

      Carry on. :)

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        And of course, my intentional typo was autocorrected. That was 8 examples of seperation.

    • gluonspring
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      I never knew. Raised by wolves and all, you know. (Though, miraculously, I think I actually got this one right).

      • lisa parker
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        So, just what is wrong with wolves? Are you trying to shift the responsibility for your own inadequacies to a loving and nurturing pack, one that took you in and sheltered you when no one else would? This is obviously a case of species bigotry, defamation and just plain ingratitude!

        I was raised by humans (well educated and intelligent) and I can barely spell my own name. And it’s only four letters long! I suggest Spell-check; it has saved me from multitudinous embarrassment (but beware of automatic spelling corrections!)

        I think you should apologize to you pack immediately!

        • gluonspring
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          You’re right. They aren’t to blame for my poor spelling. My woefully inadequate vocabulary on entering college, perhaps, but not the spelling. Spelling goes down to laziness.

          Wolf Pack, I apologize. Thanks for not eating me. You did an excellent job, all things considered, and I appreciate it.

  23. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    First of all, I love Pliny the in Between’s illustration!

    Haven’t Baptists read Matthew 6:5-15?:

    And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

    • Dermot C
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      John’s Gospel could have taken a hint from Matthew – “babbling like pagans” – because Jesus never shuts up in John. I yam what I yam.

      True story:

      Christian to Hitchens (when his cancer was first diagnosed):

      “I am praying for you, Christopher.” (patronising Schadenfreudist).

      Hitchens to Christian:

      “Thank you, and I’m thinking of you.” Ker-tish.

    • Sines
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Are you suggesting Christian actually follow the teachings of Christ?

      Next thing you’ll tell me, the Ministry of Truth doesn’t deal in lies.

      • Dermot C
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        @ Sines

        Are you suggesting Christian actually follow the teachings of Christ?

        They don’t have the balls…or rather they do. (Matthew 19:11-12).

        Give yourself a laugh and look it up.

        Slaínte.

    • Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately, you only quoted through verse eight.

      Verses nine through thirteen are Jesus instructing the assembled public crowd how to recite the Lord’s Prayer. And that’s the bit of Matthew 6 that the Baptists are drawing their inspiration for public prayer from.

      Yes, the Bible really is this full of blatant and absurdist contradiction, and in the bits that everybody claims to be familiar with, too.

      b&

      • Sines
        Posted October 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Eh, I think that part is okay. He’s giving an example of HOW to pray, not praying at that moment.

        Further, from the translations I’ve read, what Jesus recites isn’t THE LORDS PRAYER, its just an example prayer, with the indication that you’re supposed to offer a prayer from the heart, rather than reciting the same words. Jesus does contradict himself, but not from sentence to sentence, so I think that’s the way that section is meant to be read.

        Besides, if I’m right, it just compounds Christian hypocrisy, as they now recite one specific prayer, and want to do so in public. And if there’s one thing Christians have taught me, it’s that if it would be good if you were correct, then you are indeed correct :D

        • Posted October 15, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          First, there are no originals, so any edition / translation / whatever is as valid as any other. If we’re discussing American Christianity, then either the King James Version or one of the handful of newly revised standard versions are equally authoritative — and none differ in any meaningful way on anything of real substance, despite what the Christians will insist. It’s like arguing over whether Han shot first or not.

          And, if you check for yourself, you’ll see that they all start out with Jesus telling the masses how not to pray, and then telling the masses how they should pray. And the instructions for both amount to the same thing. You both should and shouldn’t use the same prayer every time; you both should and shouldn’t recite it together; and so on.

          Besides…what makes you think that a group as obsessively hypocritical as the Christians wouldn’t take it from their role model? Indeed, Jesus is the ultimate hypocrite. He’s the love god who brings not peace but a sword. He’s the family man who scorns his own mother and intends to rip families asunder. He’s the merciful, just god who’ll condemn to infinite torture all men who’ve ever had a lustful thought about a woman and failed to immediately gouge out their own eyeballs. He’s the god of life who commands his thralls to kill all those who refuse to bow down before his altar, mimicking what he himself will be back to do in person “any day now.”

          About the only thing impressive about Christianity is their PR machine. Orwell’s 1984 was a perfect parable for what the Church has always been, since day one. And, no, he wasn’t exaggerating, either.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • gluonspring
            Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

            “It’s like arguing over whether Han shot first or not.”

            Forsooth!

            • Chris
              Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

              Retcon!!!

              • Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

                Large, literate religions effectively invented the retcon, that’s for sure. For example, many Christians believe the serpent in the garden of Eden is, and always has been, Satan. Retcon!

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

              Yeah but Han DID shoot first :)

              • gbjames
                Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

                Did not! Han would never do that!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

                Team Unicorn is on my side :)

              • lisa parker
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                Uh-huh! I saw it myself!

              • gluonspring
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                gbjames, Han would never do that? Ahem… I SAW him do it with my own eyes.

              • gbjames
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

                Eye witness testimony is the worst kind!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

                Good thing we have it on video then! :)

              • gbjames
                Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

                Someone doctored that video! ;)

  24. derekw
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    If they’re uttered in public, the institution of public prayer becomes state-approved, and if the founders intended anything, it’s not that we should call on God—whichever God is on tap at the moment—in public meetings.
    Umm…there really is no doubt the founders DID intend such and executed such. US governmental history is littered with it. The first act of America’s first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of 4 chapters of the Bible. In 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence with its 4 direct religious acknowledgments of God. In 1789, on the same day that Congress finished drafting the First Amendment, it requested President Washington to declare a National day of prayer and thanksgiving…and on and on and on…

    • gluonspring
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      This is why it’s probably best to avoid arguments from authority.

      • derekw
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

        By authority you mean appealing to the First Amendment for the calls of separation of church and state? Then…I’d have to agree. It’s an unfounded appeal and efforts should be put elsewhere.

        • gluonspring
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          No, I was referring to the statement “if the founders intended anything”, which is an appeal to the authority of the founders to interpret the First Amendment. In legal settings such appeal to authority of the authors of laws is probably reasonable, actually, but it’s always going to be a quagmire. The case against religion itself is much stronger than any particular legal argument about the First Amendment, so it’s unfortunate to get sucked into that legal debate at all.

  25. marksolock
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  26. gmaduck
    Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I remember reading somewhere a politician made a secular invocation and more than 1/3 of the audience walked out! They didn’t want to hear it! Wierd

    • freethinkinfranklin
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 3:03 am | Permalink

      heres a link you all might like, video included…. wish more had the nuts to do the same instead of hiding their true thoughts out of fear… enjoy
      http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2013/05/23/atheist-state-reps-secular-invocation-done-over-in-repentance-by-christian-state-rep

      • Charles
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

        Great reply in the comments:
        “I wish everyone would go on youtube and check out Charles Dawkins, and/or read his book “The God Delusion”. Brilliant.”
        Arse.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

          I’m sure Richard Darwin would appreciate that.

      • lisa parker
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        It is very puzzling and very sad to hear so many people in responsible positions react so badly to such a sentiment. I can only guess that many politicians are just as stupid as we’re afraid they are.

        • gluonspring
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

          It’s an OCD superstition for that guy. He’s like the gambler who forgets to kiss the dice, so he kisses the dice twice next time to make up for it.

          Really, once you get out and see what people are like, it’s sort of a miracle that we haven’t destroyed ourselves already.

  27. Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    It’s mind boggling that Jerry as a vocal member of the secular, atheist, anti-theist, or humanist or whatever he calls himself is upset about such a piddly matter. And I’m talking about what ought be, not the law. Close your ears if you don’t like to hear a prayer. I could care less if congress opened every session with a prayer to Jesus, Satan or any other religious figure. No harm done. Now if the problem has to do with a supposed social harm of religious belief and by extension – prayer, then that requires some supporting evidence. The fact is that most people in this country believe in God and see religion as mainly a positive influence. The secular community seems hell bent on denigrating religious people which is counter-productive to a group that claims to have an intellectual and moral superiority over the bulk of the world that are religious.

    • gbjames
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      What boggles my mind is that some people can’t see how destructive and divisive government practice of religion is. It is as if they have no understanding of history.

      • Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        I’m not aware of governments comprised only of people that do not practice religion. Of course, you are alluding to such historical atrocities as the crusades. However saying those acts were caused by government ‘practice of religion’ is unfair but is certainly fodder for those atheists that wish to feel morally superior to the religious. We could just as easily blame such historical atrocities on a human desire for control– and that is by no means limited to the practice of religion. There are people with destructive thoughts that possibly arise from religion, agreed. But to use historical misuse of religion as an argument against public prayer is absurd.

        • gbjames
          Posted October 16, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

          You may want to pick up a basic history of Europe volume. You’ll be able to learn about some interesting events that well postdate the Crusades.

          Look into wars related to the Reformation (there were several). Check out the Eighty Years War, French wars of religion, the Thirty Years War. You may want to inquire into the wars in England and Scotland that centered on which was the One True Faith. You may also consider the history of religion and the glories of faith over the past few hundred years of Irish history.

          I’m not even bothering to point you to unceasing conflict between various forms of Islam.

          After you’ve got a handle on the basic outline of history for the past two thousand years we’ll have a more informed exchange about the importance of keeping religion and government isolated from one another.

          • lisa parker
            Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

            Unfortunately, these ‘government interventions’ are a lot more than 2000 years old. They go back thousands of years before the Christian Era.

        • Posted October 16, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

          The infamous historical atrocities committed by Christian governments in the name of Christ were also done according to the teachings of the Biblical Christ. See especially Luke 19:27 and many other passages which express a similar command and sentiment, especially including the example of Jesus himself in the Rapture.

          You could perhaps argue that they were simply latching on to a familiar order to murderous frenzy as an excuse for their own desires, but you can hardly call such a “misuse” of religion, as it has always been the primary function of religion — at least, of the desert death god religions.

          Just see, again, for example, what YHWH told Moses to do to the Midianites.

          Cheers,

          b&

    • Chris
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      Have a look at the link in freethinkinfranklin’s response to #26 above:

      http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2013/05/23/atheist-state-reps-secular-invocation-done-over-in-repentance-by-christian-state-rep

      If that’s what the “religious community” (as represented by the Christian Representatives) thinks of the “secular community” then you can see why this IS and issue.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      The link that Chris references provides a clear example of how divisive religion can be, especially when mixed into the workings of the state. This is how it feels when you don’t participate in a group prayer and you’re singled out as the “other”. One may easily “plug ears” during a prayer but these very actions by an atheist or other non Christian often results in a negative reaction by the participators.

    • Posted October 16, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      I think it is important–because lines and boundaries can be crossed here. If some dude on the street wants to preach–let him preach. Suzie wants to pray in a corner of her school, let her prayer. What I dislike is the idea that they will pray over a crowd that is mixed and force inclusion. That is arrogant. They won’t allow wiccans to lead prayers–or even Muslims–city council members walked out when an Islamic man tried to do just that. They only care about their freedoms, not mine—heck–they tried to oust a government officially who was openly atheist. It is this idiocy that I think underlines the issue. The fact that they only want THEIR freedoms protected and damn the rest of us, we are, after all, just godless heathens. I am not a believer–I don’t want to engage in spiritual or religious ceremonies against my will and that is what that is. If I were in a religious person’s home I’d have to accept that–I don’t have to in a public place that is not a church or a religious orientated center.

      • tomh
        Posted October 16, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        They won’t allow wiccans to lead prayers

        In the case coming before the Supreme Court, over an eleven year span of almost one hundred percent Christian prayers, the one year that they allowed diversity, (in 2008 only, four out of twelve were non-Christian), oddly enough, one of the four was a Wiccan priestess. I can’t imagine how that came about. They normally choose the prayer-giver from a local published guide of churches, which does not include any non-Christian churches. However, even the two complainants, who are Jewish, testified they knew of no non-Christian places of worship there. This in a town of almost 100,000. The appeals court that ruled against the town said they should have expanded their search.

        • lisa parker
          Posted October 18, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

          We have had Wiccan prayers open city council meetings at least a few times. While the news reporters made quite a deal of it and interviewed several people making accusations of Satanism (which should also be legal, but I don’t recall hearing any ask to lead the counsel’s prayers), no one was ever struck by lightning or anything, at least not that I’ve heard about.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      It boggles my mind, especially after recent discussions, that someone will still barge into Jerry’s living room and tell him he’s doin’ it rong.

    • Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:05 am | Permalink

      Dear Billrabara,
      It is interesting that you find people’s reaction to enforced prayer ‘piddling’. For some of us it is a deeply wounding act of aggression. I have often repeated upon this site my early experiences at a British school in the early nineteen fifties when a young woman teacher told the class about her gods and about the baby Jesus. There are, of course, many gods in Christianity; the devil, angels, saints, all gods!

      The problem was that I was an ‘infant scientist ‘who was already doing scientific experiments in my kitchen at home. A already had a good grasp of scientific reality, so when the teacher talked about raising from the dead, and of the miracle of Daniel walking about the furnace talking to his friends, it simply did not match my experiences with the little furnace I had built in my shed with which to melt different metals.

      I, aged about 9, talked with her and told he that she was confusing the gods stories with other tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk. She was very angry with me and put me at the back of the class. Later I realised that she had tried to sabotage my efforts to pass a very important examination called the 11+. A failure in that exam would have altered the direction of my life.

      Shortly after came the death threats, and the teacher spelled-out in detail the miserable everlasting hell some of us would go to.

      I learned from an early age that religion was a nasty cult that severely punished those who did not submit to it. And I have never lost my feeling that religions are pure, dripping evil.

      You, as a religious person, must come to terms with the fact that religions set out to punish non-believers with great cruelty. I have an old leather-bound book dated about 1812, (85 years before the birth of my father in 1897) in which a Protestant pastor visiting Portuguese India tells of seeing people burned alive for not changing to the Catholic religion. It is the daily experience for those of different or of no religion to regard your Christian cult as a nasty, evil collection of people who believe that they are good, and that they are doing good, when they are really very evil, and doing evil things.

      Your cult is indistinguishable from any satanic cult, with the same ideas and the same love of threats and evil acts against others. So I ask you. Is it fair that at an Arizona meeting, some people will be asked to sit, and by sitting there, agree to the words of a vicious, evil cult of death? Most of us believe in Freedom of Religion, but we should not be included in it, or exposed to its nasty rituals, or forced to sit silent while others around us praise themselves for their own wickedness.

  28. Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    and of course we can be sure that this Baptist would have a fit if public prayer was used by anyone else but his fellow TrueChristians.

    By his argument, we should allow anything, anything at all, as long as someone can claim that their religion demands it.


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