Thursday, December 25, 2003

Rob Bernard Reponds

Rob Bernard responded to my post on a FOX News article. Rob makes the argument that religion should not be banned from public areas. I agree. Individuals have the constitutional right to make their religion known on a non-fixed basis. If you want to walk through fountain square carrying a cross, that is fine, as long as you don't interfere with anyone else. Erecting that cross (or Menorah or a 10' penis) is not something I find to be valid on public property. Secularized symbols of Christmas I have problem with having on public property. Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, etc are fine. They might indirectly refer to the religion, but they are not dogmatic teachings or divine symbols from Christianity.

What I don't think Rob sees is that from my point of view "sharing" should be voluntary.
I would argue that it is intolerant to keep religion out of public areas. The exclusion of religion from the public arena is simply taking another side in the religious debate. Putting up a big cross, nativity scene, menorah, Star of David or a giant Torah doesn't push your religion on others because they don't comply with that religious code. It doesn't say "join our religion and follow our beliefs or something bad will happen to you" it says "this is a symbol of what we hold dear and we want to share it." Opposing religious expression is as much a statement of religious beliefs as anything else.
Two points: First, a religious belief requires a belief in a god or gods or supernatural entities or supernatural creators. Opposing religious expression is not a religious belief, nor an expression of religion. Atheism is not a religion. Atheism is a belief, yet, but beliefs alone don't make a religion. A religion has to do with a god or the supernatural. Second point: in the above excerpt the "we" in the "is a symbol of what we hold dear and we want to share it" comment is what is the problem. This “we” is so varied that they only way to fairly determine it is not make it "we", but make it "me." If you want it on pubic property keep it to "me," if you want to make it "we" why not keep it in your church? If I want to share in your religion why can't I just go into the buildings with a big cross on top? Once I am there the "we" can share with anyone any type of in your face religious expression they wish, without any government intervention (except for established laws).

Keeping religion out of public places does not indorse atheism. The government should take a “don’t ask don’t tell” type view on religion. It should do nothing but protect the right of any individual to practice their religion and provide the ability to government workers (military, police, etc) who while on duty are unable to practice their religion. This is were military Chaplains come into play.

Also for the record, I don’t have anti-religious beliefs. Am I an atheistic-agnostic? Yes. Do I believe that all known religions are invalid? Yes. Am I against anyone being prevented from practicing their religion? NO! What I am against is people thinking that when they superimpose their religion on me or when they try to make me to comply with their religious dogma through law that they are practicing their religion. If pushing one’s religion on others is such a vital part of one’s religion (you know getting more members), then it sounds more like a Ponzi scheme.

Finally, if Rob or any religious person wants to celebrate their religion they have the constitutional right to do so. They can build a church and sing praises to “God” or “Satan” or “Ra” or “Odin” until their lungs turn blue. They can do that while walking down the street. What they can’t do is use the government to help them proselytize. The purpose of publicly expressing religion is to ADVERTISE it. Why do you advertise? To make people aware of your product. Outward expression of religion (mainly speaking about the big three monotheistic religions, but I think all apply) has two core purposes: to try and let others know what your religion is and to let others know you follow that religion. The first is a means of proselytization and second is a means of identification of compliance. That is a cold and clinical description of what outward expressions of religion are, but I don’t see any other valid explanation. If you don’t want to show off your religious beliefs, then you really would not need to express them. If you want people to act like you, what is often considered most pure is by acting upon those beliefs, instead of telling people you believe them.

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