Saturday, October 11, 2008

Vice Presidential Candidate Pumps Religion

Guess who...

"The Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. We are after all not just another nation, but 'one nation under God.' "

"Faith and the values that flow from it were central to the founding of this country. They have always shaped and stirred our national conscience. And now, at this moment of moral uncertainty, I believe our best hope for rekindling the American spirit and renewing our common values is to have faith again. Not just in our hearts but in our communities. Not just in our private places of worship, but in our public spaces of conversation. And not just in our separate beliefs, but in our common commitment to our common purposes as Americans."

"America is the first nation that was founded not just as a set of borders, but a set of ideals that we are all created equal by God, that we are all endowed by our creator with inalienable rights, that we should all be free to pursue our dreams and realize the potential God [that] gave every one of us..."

"This is something the Founders understood implicitly and wrote explicitly into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They were men of profound faith and recognized as such the necessity of religion in a free society."

"[The Founders] were saying [that] our ideas, the inviolability of our rights, and the mission of our republic were inextricably linked to our belief in God and a higher law ... They knew that our experiment in self-government was contingent on our faith in the Creator who endowed us with the alienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"We are still arguably the most religiously observant people on earth and still share a near universal belief in God. But you wouldn't know it from our national public life today. The line between church and state is an important one and has always been critical for us to draw, but in recent years we have gone far beyond what the Framers ever imagined in separating the two..."

"This shared interfaith concern [over secularism and nonbelief] is about consequences, the price we have paid for our moral ambivalence. By driving religion from the public square, we have gone a long way toward dislodging our values from their mooring in moral truth. The tablets that Moses brought down from the top of Mount Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions, as Ted Koppel has pointed out, they were the Ten Commandments. But more and more people feel free to pick and choose from them..."

This would be Joe Lieberman in 2000, of course. Seems so very long ago...

[HT: American Atheists. They're looking for a new editor for their website, I see, EA. You'd be ace.]


Brian Tubbs said...

Great post, Tom! And I agree completely with Mr. Leiberman.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Aw, shucks, Brian. I ran across it working on something else.

I liked the sentiment, and it was an unbelievable relief to not have to double- and triple-check my source for a change and avoid our customary epistemological crisis around here citing American Atheists. [Admittedly, there's a lot of bogus sourcing out there, especially on the David Barton side.]

Except for Lieberman's truth claim in the final quote that G-d gave the commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai [I object to religious "truth claims" of any stripe in open fora like this], the rest is quite consistent with Jefferson/the D of I's wording: "we hold" these truths to be self-evident, only our conviction about things like unalienable rights and Creators binds us together, and there is a social utility in that, and as Lieberman argues, a necessary utility.

Presented for your consideration, Rod Serling-like.

Charles T. Wolverton said...

Tom - I will exercise immense self-restraint by not offering any opinion on the author or the content of the quote and limit myself to asking a neutral question:

What specific actions do you think expressions like "driving religion from the public square" are meant to subsume? My impression is that most thoughtful people admit that prayer in public schools is inappropriate if coerced, although there can be legitimate difference of opinion on what constitutes coercion. So I assume that's not it. I recognize that there can also be legitimate disagreement over 10 commandments installations, but I find it hard to believe that anyone seriously thinks an insufficiency of those has been a major contributor to "dislodging our values from their mooring in moral truth" (whatever that might mean). And if the "public square" is meant to somehow relate to the political arena, the current campaign seems to me to make that statement suggestive of a disconnect with reality. So, I'm at a loss to interpret such expressions. Exactly who has done what, to whom, and where that realistically can be said to have had which supposedly devastating effects?

I certainly won't dispute that there are numerous aspects of contemporary US culture that are at best unattractive, at worst potentially destructive. I just don't see them as having the slightest thing to do with the place of religion in "the public square". The underlying "sins" seem to me to be thriving in both religious and secular communities.

I am somewhat familiar with Neuhaus and his take on the issue, but frankly based on what I've heard from or read by him, (eg, at First Things"), I suspect I'll get a more thoughtful perspective from you.

Thanks - Charles

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, I can't top Neuhaus. And we'll take the examples you ask for as they come up. I've mentioned several already, that went by without comments, so I'm not going to lay out a metanarrative in a comments section that can be easily deconstructed. We spent 50 comments on the Ninth Circuit with no conclusion about something that should be quantifiable but ended up with "the SCOTUS has a bias against the Ninth." An abstract would meet an even worse fate. Pass.

In the meantime, Lieberman's argument can be taken on its own terms. To me, it's not the least controversial, but as you can see, American Atheists objects strongly. Their objection---that they object to Lieberman's speech at all---can be taken as an preliminary answer to your challenge.

Charles T. Wolverton said...

Well, that was impressive. In a very brief comment, you dismissed my question, misrepresented my position (if I am correct in assuming that the "SCOTUS bias" conclusion was intended to be attributable to me), and "assumed facts not in evidence" if American Atheists (whatever that is) is supposed to have any relevance to me.

So, apparently I'll just have to continue dismissing "religion purged from the public square" phrases as mere rhetorical fluff. Works for me.

As to Lieberman's quote, although it's true that I dispute several parts of it, I'd be surprised if they're the ones you're assuming. I think you are often too quick to presume insight into the positions of others when you have little or none. As I think I've said before, to the extent that I understand your position on the place of religion in US (and in general, Western) history, I don't have any strong diagreement. As to what should be done today in light of that historical reality, I'm still not sure about the extent of disagreement since I don't find your comments on such matters quite as lucid as you apparently do. Perhaps yet another failure of reading comprehension, perhaps not.

- Charles

Tom Van Dyke said...

True. It's likely my fault. I will attempt to make specific arguments as they come up in the course of our joint inquiry around here. In the meantime, your method of negation and invalidation of arguments is to me unsatisfying and ultimately unsatisfiable. Although you no doubt intended as a compliment that I could argue Neuhaus better than Neuhaus, if you find him unsatisfying, I expect no better luck.

Re your one venture into affirmative counterargument, I'll simply turn the tables and say your citation of a little 2008 election rhetoric is insufficient. I'm quite adept at your method as well, and used to favor it; however, I've concluded it's unnourishing no matter which side of it I'm on, and so I won't be spending much more time with it. Mr. Rowe and I have come to agree on many premises over the years, and where our conclusions differ, we employ the method of argument and counterargument. It is there I wish to spend my time. This may seem to be a dodge or a sophistry to you, but I assure you I will engage your counterarguments as well in the future. You come up with some very good ones.

Phil Johnson said...

Like this kind of coercion?
Johnny's Mother looked out the window and noticed him "playing church" with their cat.
He had the cat sitting quietly and he was preaching to it.
She smiled and went about her work.
A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back to the open window to see Johnny baptizing the cat in a tub of water.
She called out, "Johnny, stop that! The cat is afraid of water!"
Johnny looked up at her and said,
"He should have thought about that before he joined my church."

Explicit Atheist said...

There is no God just like Mohammed is not God's prophet and Jesus is not God's son. Therefore, his entire argument is based on a false premise, and therefore it is mistaken. He can argue all he wants about how important he thinks God belief is but his argument is no more legally relevant than an arguemnt about how important Mohammed belief or Jesus belief is.

Because he is arguing for his religious beliefs in a government legal and political context, his religious beliefs now become a proper and justified subject for political debate. That isn't fair to citizens who have a minority religious belief, just like it wouldn't be fair to Jews for Christians to make the same argument Lieberman makes on behalf of government promotion of God belief for government promotion of Jesus belief. But we have no choice, we have to attack his religious beliefs as long as he is arguing his religious beliefs in the context of our law.

There is no lack of moral ambivalance in various different versions of the "Ten Commandments" that Liberman cites as the "higher law". The penalty specified for violating the various commandments, including "You shall have no other gods before me", "You shall not make for yourself an idol", "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy", is death. Since these are commandments, not suggestions, and the Founders, according to Lieberman, were saying "our ideas, the inviolability of our rights, and the mission of our republic were inextricably linked to our belief in God and a higher law" (this is not true, they didn't say that) shouldn't Lieberman be calling for the death penalty for violations of the Ten Commandments as specified in the "higher law"? By driving the Ten Commandments from the law, haven't "we have gone a long way toward dislodging our values from their mooring in moral truth?" On what self-consistent "moral truth" and "self-government" and "mission of our republic" grounds does Lieberman defend endorsing and promoting belief in God as a government responsibility while simultaneously ignoring the government responsiblity to uphold the "higher law's Ten Commandment penalties? Is it because the Founders didn't believe in the commanded, not suggested, higher law?

Phil Johnson said...

Like it or not, Explicit Atheist nails the question directly on the doors of the law.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Not really.

the Founders, according to Lieberman, were saying "our ideas, the inviolability of our rights, and the mission of our republic were inextricably linked to our belief in God and a higher law" (this is not true, they didn't say that)

Sure they did. This is getting ridiculous.

Explicit Atheist said...

Lieberman's argument is overflowing, really overflowing, with arrogance. Its not a thoughtfull argument. If we could get him on a witness stand and have a capable lawyer cross examine his argument, his argument would end up be dead on the floor starting with his haughty factual claim premise that he or the Founders or anyone else knows the contents of "the divine" laws and that those who don't believe in his fantasy god and divine laws are therefore morally inferior to those who believe in his fantasy god and divine laws.

Tom Van Dyke said...

EA, I understand your objection, but it doesn't necessarily follow from Lieberman's statement that atheism equals amorality. Certainly GWashington says quite the opposite in his farewell address.

Still, atheism, as it's not a dogmatic body of thought, can lead most anywhere. I frequently bring up Peter Singer, whose perfectly logical view of what even what "human" means is in conflict with the Judeo-Christian view of man.