Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ham-boned Arguments

For friends and readers: I have altitude sickness. I've spent my life at sea level, and now I'm in the mile high city. Kid doesn't seem to be having too many troubles, fortunately. He's got a stuffy nose but that's about all. I, on the other hand, feel like my very bones are tired, and getting out of bed takes a lot of energy. On the plus side, I'm much better off emotionally here in Denver, so what's a little altitude sickness?

Viking is over a lot, and he plays video games for the Kid (who loves to watch but keeps saying, "My turn? My turn?" till he gets the controller, and then just makes the guy run around in circles.) Once I'm feeling better, I'll return to making YouTube videos (though probably not at quite the same rate, since Kid is out of school till he starts Kindergarten in the fall.) [Edit: I made one today.] With all that said, let's move on to an apologetic. (Once I'm feeling better, and once the Kid is in school, I'll go back to writing childhood trauma stories.)
Separation of Christianity and State
by Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis

Almost all Americans have heard the phrase “separation of church and state.” It has been used as something of a club to “beat down” and eliminate Christianity from public places, including symbols (like crosses), disallow Bible reading and prayer in public schools, and stop the teaching of creation in science classes.
When dealing with Ken Ham, it's important to remember that he won't let one lie per sentence suffice. Separation of church and state is beneficial both to the state and to the church. It has in no way been used as a club to "beat down" Christianity. Its purpose is to stop Christianity (or whatever other religion like Islam becomes dominant) from beating down the rest of us and our free and civil society. The church doesn't step in and tell government what to do, and the government doesn't step in and tell church what to do. It's a win-win situation, but not to Ken Ham.

Christianity has hardly been "eliminated" from public spaces. Tim Tebow's running around the football field with John 3:16 in his eye black. There are street preachers in every college town in the country, railing against the sins of getting an education and having a good time. There are Christian prayer meetings in the Pentagon (something which would make our founding fathers turn in their graves, if their bodies were still animate.)

Bible reading and prayer in public schools have not (and never will be) disallowed. State mandated prayers that everyone in school must say, directed to the Christian god and violating the freedom of religion for every child in the school, are no longer allowed. But individual students and groups of students can pray - at lunch, before an athletic event, or at the flagpole. I was in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes when I attended public school, and we met on school grounds during school hours on club days.

Crosses and other religious displays are permitted on any private property, just not on government property, because that's space we all share (and we don't all share your religion.) And creation isn't taught in science class because it isn't science. The fact that you consider this an element of a Christian "beat down" betrays the whole "Intelligent Design isn't *religious!*" outrage your own side tries so desperately to drum up. You cannot claim it is science, supported on its own merits, and simultaneously claim that it is religious persecution to not allow you to lie to children in government funded schools.
Now, where does the phrase “separation of church and state” come from? It is not a part of the original U.S. Constitution of 1787, as most people falsely believe, or in any of its amendments. In reality, the idea of a “wall of separation” between church and state came from a private letter from President Thomas Jefferson, and it has sadly been misused to slowly, but surely, eliminate Christianity from the public sector—and replace it with an anti-God religion.
The phrase "separation of church and state" did indeed appear in Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. James Madison also wrote, "Strongly guarded... is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States." (Since these guys basically wrote the thing, I think it's safe to believe them on what their intentions were.) Here's more from Americans United for a Separation of Church and State:
At the time he wrote the letter, Jefferson was under fire from conservative religious elements who hated his strong stand for full religious liberty. Jefferson saw his response to the Danbury Baptists as an opportunity to clear up his views on church and state. Far from being a mere courtesy, the letter represented a summary of Jefferson's thinking on the purpose and effect of the First Amendment's religion clauses.

Jefferson's Danbury letter has been cited favorably by the Supreme Court many times. In its 1879 Reynolds v. U.S. decision the high court said Jefferson's observations "may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment." In the court's 1947 Everson v. Board of Education decision, Justice Hugo Black wrote, "In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'" It is only in recent times that separation has come under attack by judges in the federal court system who oppose separation of church and state."
Now that we've cleared up the history and its relevance, we need to address Ken Ham's fear-mongering deceit. There is no anti-God religion powerfully taking over the nation. This is not Soviet Russia and secular humanists are not the "militant atheists" you imagine - not even as anti-theist humanists. Humanism: it's a good thing.
The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment was intended to protect the church from the (federal) government, not the government from the church. Therefore, no “national” church or religion is allowed to be established by the federal government.
Here we're talking about intention. Intention is not the same as interpretation, and if we want to know what the authors of the Constitution thought, we have only to look at their public and private statements on the matter about their intentions. (Yes, people sometimes lie about intentions, but it's extremely doubtful the founding fathers would have lied about their intentions for the Constitution.) Ken here has no evidence of the founders intentions - just assertions. So allow me to provide the relevant data points.
Unembarrassed by attachments to noble families, hereditary lines and successions, or any considerations of royal blood, even the pious mystery of holy oil had no more influence than that other of holy water: the people universally were too enlightened to be imposed on by artifice; and their leaders, or more properly followers, were men of too much honour to attempt it. Thirteen governments thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favour of the rights of mankind.
- President John Adams "A Defense of Government of the United States of America (1787-88)

The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from civil Government, and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurious to both;
- James Madison; Letter to Edward Everett, March 18, 1823

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
-- President Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813
There are many more, with a good sampling here. What was that again Ken?
I will highlight key words of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .

You can see that the “separation of church and state” phrase is nowhere in the Amendment (or the rest of the Constitution).
God is also nowhere in the Constitution. Neither are Jesus or Christianity. It's a secular document, composed by liberal Enlightenmnet era Christians and Deists (and possibly a few atheists.) And as for the words themselves not appearing in the Constitution, I turn once again to the Americans United for a Separation of Church and State.
As eminent church-state scholar Leo Pfeffer notes in his book, Church, State and Freedom, "It is true, of course, that the phrase 'separation of church and state' does not appear in the Constitution. But it was inevitable that some convenient term should come into existence to verbalize a principle so clearly and widely held by the American people....[T]he right to a fair trial is generally accepted to be a constitutional principle; yet the term 'fair trial' is not found in the Constitution. To bring the point even closer home, who would deny that 'religious liberty' is a constitutional principle? Yet that phrase too is not in the Constitution. The universal acceptance which all these terms, including 'separation of church and state,' have received in America would seem to confirm rather than disparage their reality as basic American democratic principles."
And now let's see Ken's version...
The 1802 letter from Jefferson was sent to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut in response to the group’s letter to him. Jefferson was trying to assure the Baptists that the federal government would never be permitted to interfere with the church. In fact, in his letter, Jefferson states:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
And what about this aren't you getting, Ken? Jefferson was saying that you can't stop gay marriage because your Bible calls it an abomination - that the government should only legislate on actions which are deleterious, and not on beliefs which are held. He's talking about the kind of government I want.
Today, secular scholars have lifted the Danbury letter out of its entire historical context and have turned the so-called “wall” metaphor completely on its head.
“Separation of church and state” is now used to protect the government from the influence of the church—establishing a policy of freedom “from” religion, which in reality has become “separation of Christianity and state.” This would have been an entirely foreign and unintended concept to the Founding Fathers.
No, that would not have been foreign or unintended. To wit,
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
- Treaty of Tripoli, 1797
Yeah, this isn't a Christian nation, and our laws aren't based on the Bible or on Christianity (which might be why they make no reference to either!) Let's see what Thomas Jefferson, coiner of the phrase, had to say about separation of church and state in a speech he gave to Virginia Baptists in 1808.
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.
We have solved ... the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.
I think I've demonstrated good evidence for my case - that the founders intended for this to be a nation of no government religion, separation of church and state, and free exercise of religion for those who choose it. Let's see what Ham-bone has to support his case.
This misrepresentation of the Constitution was witnessed once again as I attended a debate in March, in which Rev. Barry Lynn, a liberal minister, lawyer, and the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, spoke. Not only did he argue for separation, but claimed that government “neutrality” towards Christianity was his group’s aim. Sadly, most Americans (Christians included) have also been duped into believing that the so-called “separation of church and state” requires eliminating the Christian God and creating a neutral situation. But there is no such position as neutrality. Indeed, one is either for Christ or against Him (Matthew 12:30)!
Even the other Christians are against me! I'm in the minority, so I must be right! Ahem. We've amped up the pressure here now, haven't we? Suddenly Reverend Barry Lynn is against Him? Now Ken Ham has determined that the only way to be for Jesus is to be for a government run by churches (and you know clergy, like him.) Never mind, for the moment, what the Constitution has to say about such things. I don't remember JESUS ever saying anything about running the government! Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher, pretty unconcerned with earthly things. He was all "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" and "sell all that you have, give the money to the poor." That's not the same as "elect Sarah Palin" and "keep people ignorant of science, fight life saving medical advancements, and deny women the right to bodily autonomy." It certainly isn't, "Go shoot up the brown people for their oil."
The religion of naturalism (atheism) has been imposed on the public education system, and on the culture as a whole. For instance, science textbooks in the public schools now typically define science as naturalism (atheism):
Science requires repeatable observations and testable hypotheses. These standards restrict science to a search for natural causes for natural phenomena . . . . Supernatural explanations of natural events are simply outside the bounds of science.
This is the "non overlapping magisteria" argument, which Richard Dawkins discusses at length in "The God Delusion" (which I am just now finally reading. Thanks again to Lee from St. Louis for the atheist library!) I think what it is saying, very politely, is that the supernatural is not observable, repeatable, or testable because there is no evidence any of it actually exists. And of course, the way you would verify if something supernatural did exist would be through science. It's a very good way of determining whether or not a claim is true, and religion just folds.

Getting back to Ken's original lies: Atheism is not a religion. I did a whole video on it. Atheism is not naturalism, at least not in any religious worship sense. (Although I do like nature quite a lot, I don't worship anything.) He's trying to say that a competing religion is being imposed on our youth, so that he can cry unfair that he isn't being allowed to do the same. He's not looking out for children - he's jealous because he's being deprived of valuable brain washing opportunities. But here's the thing, not only is atheism not a religion, it isn't a philosophy either. Atheists don't universally agree on anything that I'm aware of. There are anti-choice atheists, conservative atheists, atheists in fox holes, pole dancing atheists, anti-porn crusader atheists... We come in all flavors. We have no unifying dogma we are trying to impose on anyone, even if some of us would really, really like it if you would just put down the holy book and take a couple of deep breaths.
In keeping with this pronouncement, these books teach molecules-to-man evolution, based only on unproven natural processes, as fact! In other words, they have eliminated the supernatural and replaced it with naturalism. In reality, they have eliminated the Christian worldview and replaced it with a secular, atheistic one!
Dude, calm down. You made so many false equations in that mini rant, I'm a bit concerned about the state of your heart. Chill. There is nothing nefarious about the teaching of science in science class (nor history in history class, despite what the Texas State Board of Education may claim.) The theory of evolution - what Ken here is really concerned with - is true. That's why it gets taught in science class and goddidit doesn't. It's not religious persecution, and it's not government sponsored atheist religion. It's just a matter of which one is science and which one is bullshit.
Sadly, because many Christians have falsely believed that there can be a neutral position, and have also been duped regarding the so-called “separation of church and state,” they are not prepared to boldly and unashamedly stand on the Word of God as they confront issues like abortion, “gay” marriage, racism, etc. By shrinking back, believers have allowed the secularists to impose their anti-God atheistic religion on the public schools—and the culture as a whole.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Did he just say racism? He wants to stand on the Word of God? (I guess he means the Bible, but I've already explained why I don't think Christians should call it that.) The Bible says you can kill and enslave anyone who's not a fellow Jew! The Bible is immoral and outdated and false! And you want to use this book to control my uterus, tell my friends they can't be a family, and be bigoted and racist? Well, fuck you!
Answers in Genesis has launched its “I am Not Ashamed” campaign to challenge Christians to publicly and unashamedly stand on the Word of God. Only then, from the basis of the Bible’s absolute authority, will Christians be able to effectively combat the immorality that plagues our nation.
Wow. Imagine how big of a prick you can be, if you think you have absolute authority in your hand? Case in point: Ken Ham.

What a douche nozzle.