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.