Metro State Atheists

Promoting Science, Reason, and Secular Values

Separation of Church and State Rally

So, yesterday I we went to a separation of church and state rally at the Denver State Capital building. Joel, our President, was originally scheduled to give a presentation but had to cancel at the last minute so I filled in. We should have some footage of the event early next month. We filmed an interview of another guest speaker, best selling author and physicist Victor Stenger, by Elles, author of the blog Splendid Elles, for Skepchick. We should be posting that early next month too. Anyway, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the separation of church and state, including some of the stuff I covered in my presentation.

The separation of church and state is a gap intended to accomplish two primary things. The first is freedom from religion. Our government is based not on the values of any one ideology, but on the innate qualities and aspirations that unite every human being. As such, the government should be unable to enforce laws based on the beliefs of any one religious group. No one should be subject to the restrictions of a religion that is not their own. Ours is a government for the people, by the people, and I mean all the people. This is not a utilitarian majority rules type of democracy. Our government is suppose to represent everyone, not just the great in number. The only restrictions the government should impose is to prevent one person from impinging on the basic natural rights of another human being. Your government should protect you rights, and protect you from being subjected to the restrictions of any religion, whether your rich or poor, black or white, big or small, dumb or smart.

The second purpose of the separation of church and state is to guarantee freedom of religion. In the same way that you should not be subject to the restrictions of other ideologies, so to should you be able to choose which restrictions, beyond those minimal ones imposed by the government, you should be subject too. For example, if your don’t believe in blood transfusions, you don’t have to get one. However, you have no right to impose your principles on others via the government. Those who do not share some religious value should not, do not, have to follow them.

Whenever I debate this particular subject with others, one of the misunderstandings I hear is that a secular government is somehow anti-religious. In reality, a secular government is simply non-religious. In reality, a secular non-religious government is the only government with any realistic probability of guaranteeing the individuals right to practice their own religion. This is not a atheistic nation, and secularism and atheism are not synonymous. I often hear people say that we are a Christian nation, which, in a sense is true. Though our government is not based on Christian values, it is a nation of Christians. However, to say that we are just a Christian nation is absurdly reductionist. We are also a nation of Jews and Muslims, rich and poor, believers and non-believers, men and women, and so much more. Our nation is a melting-pot, and only a secular government can accuratley represent and effectively govern such a diverse populace.

The rights your government guarantees you are based on your humanity, not your religious affiliation and the laws you are subject too are to prevent you from impinging on the basic human rights of others.

– Chalmer

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September 29, 2008 - Posted by | Politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. As a Christian who is tired of “my people” always trying to legislate morality, I find myself in agreement with much of your thoughts. I, like you, cannot stand the idea that one ideological agenda – even a Christian one – can or should dominate the state.

    Here’s my question for you, though – a question I’m struggling to find an answer to.

    The Religious Right is attempting to enforce their agenda on the State through the State’s designed means – through the power of vote and lobby. They are doing nothing illegal. So, even though I think they should not be legislating morality, do I have a right to deny them what they ‘win’ in the political arena? They exercise their rights and in doing so, they accomplish things many Americans don’t want them to accomplish.

    But in the end, they’re acting within their rights – to vote for what they think is best for America. Can I deny them that right just because I disagree with them or just b/c they represent a, IMO, faulty ideological agenda? I would ask the same questions if the secularists or anyone else were the dominant group – can I deny them the rights of their ‘winnings’ when they’ve acted in accordance to the State’s model for legislation?

    Comment by thefuerstshallbelast | September 30, 2008

  2. Your bring up an excellent question, one I don’t have an immediate answer to. I’ll give it some thought and get back to you. Here are my initial impressions though.

    If their winnings are completely legitimate, then who am I to deny them? I’m a concerned American citizen. I don’t have money, influence, or power, but I do have my reason, my hope, and my passion. If I have an option to do something, and do nothing, I would rather go down fighting. If thats the nature of the “political arena”, then so be it. Just becuase their winnings are legal and legitimate doesn’t mean we can’t prevent them through equally legitimate means.

    No matter how hard a political party pulls in the political tug-of-war for power, their should always be someone to pull back. Someone once told me that our right to rebel against or overthrow a repressive government is not one that the government guarantees us, but a right that we as citizens afford ourselves. If our government should ever become so oppressive, who but the rebels would even recognize their right to rebel?

    It almost seems like its the conflict itself that matters; that each group limits every other from becoming to powerful. In a sense, perhaps, we all keep each other in check. So I guess my initial answer to the “who are you” question is this: you are the governed.

    I’m gonna give this some more thought, though.

    Thank you for great question, it really got me thinking!

    – Chalmer

    Comment by metrostateatheists | September 30, 2008


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