Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Capitol Visitor Center Opens With Objection To Lack of Religious References

Yesterday, the $621 million U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, over-budget and behind schedule, opened to the public. (Washington Post.) South Carolina Republican Senator Jame DeMint almost delayed the opening further, according to the McClatchy Newspapers yesterday. DeMint complains that the Center "fails to appropriately honor our religious heritage that has been critical to America’s success." (DeMint Press Release.) Problems began when, on a preview tour, DeMint discovered that a panel on a wall incorrectly identified "E Pluribus Unum", rather than "In God We Trust" as the national motto. The chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee have agreed to support removal of the erroneous reference to "Our Nation's Motto" (which has been temporarily plastered over), and to adding engravings of "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent locations in the Visitor Center. DeMint says:
While the Architect of the Capitol has pledged to include some references to faith, more needs to be done.... The current ... displays are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history. Exhibits portray the federal government as the fulfillment of human ambition and the answer to all of society’s problems. This is a clear departure from acknowledging that Americans' rights 'are endowed by their Creator' and stem from 'a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.'
DeMint particularly objects to the engraving near the entrance reading: "We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution."

29 comments:

Chris Duckworth said...

"We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution."

Where does that quote come from? I, too, might object to "temple" and "oracle" language regarding our governing structures and documents . . .

Bob Ritter said...

"[U]nder God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" as a national motto are blemishes on our national heritage. The sooner these Christian Right tyrannies are eliminated, the sooner our federal government serves all of its people.

CrypticLife said...

Absolutely agreed, Bob. More people need to realize what vicious and unamerican statements the motto and pledge are.

Chris, the quote is from Rufus Choate, a lawyer/politician who lived from 1799 to 1859, served in state and national legislatures in the 1830's and 40's.

Anonymous said...

The laws and decrees of God have been around far longer than the constitution and have infinitely more weight and importance.

The persecution of christians is already begun in earnest by their exclusion in such things. I am not suprised by it. We were told to expect it. Bring it on.

The more the anti-christians push now, the more strongly do we hold to our faith. The state does not grant us our inalienable rights. We will not expect it to defend them anymore either. It is obviously too much to expect from seculars.

Fiat Voluntas Tua
Barb of Indiana

Bob Ritter said...

Barb, its wrong to describe the push for adherence to our secular form of government as "anti-Christian." Rather, it's neutrality at its finest -- people of all beliefs are treated with equal dignity.

With respect to "the laws and decrees of God", I would point out that, there being no god, therefore, there are no god's laws -- merely laws passed in the names of mythological figures.

For five decades, I've been trying to answer what is a "right" -- as in inalienable rights. Essentially, it seems to me,there are two sources. Ones that we defend with our own powers and those that others are willing to recognize (e.g., those rights that are specified in government charters). Others, like Natural Law and Divine Law have nice sounding titles, but lack substance to back them up.

CrypticLife said...

Which inalienable rights, Barb? Do you mean the "persecution" of NOT having your deity cited in official pronouncements of the government? Or do you mean the "persecution" of not being able to legally force my children to cite allegiance to your deity daily as part of their public school education?

Perhaps if you had car dealers telling you in ads to shut up, that would be persecution, Barb? Or maybe if politicians started railing at you while giving testimony before Congress? Or maybe if a slur during political campaigns was to claim a candidate happened to go to a party where someone of your faith was present?

Your whining about "persecution" is rather sickening. If anything atheists do take your faith away, it's only because your positions are faulty at the outset.

Chimera said...

"Fiat Voluntas Tua?"

Not me. MY will be done!

Wassamatter, Barb? Got no will of your own? You gotta get your marching orders from somebody else? You know, the more you push this crap onto other people, the more they will resent it and you. You complain about being persecuted, but you bring it on yourself, and I think you have a taste for it.

Anonymous said...

Barb, time for a refresher in Latin...

Brandon J said...

Barb is correct, however. Secularism is new to America, in fact secularism in its current form is only 50 years old. Before that it was the Christian Left which turned from the Bible in the 1880s-1940s that drove the prelude to Secularism.

Before that, God was everywhere in the US, religion was Christianity; nothing else, and that is what made the US so strong. Since then the US has been in constant decline in spirituality and all it now has to show for itself is school shootings, teen pregnancies, and AIDS.

Secularism is winning a lot of converts that way huh? Be secular, be immoral, ignore God and Christ, and ... get AIDS...get Herpes, get pregnant at 16 and have an abortion. Get shot by your deranged school mates.

Christianity is the only true religion; the mistake of the Founding Fathers was allowing their statements of freedom of denominations, to being freedom for any religion. Which is not their intent at all if you knew anything about History.

Anonymous said...

Brandon, if I may point out a few things.

First it's hard to be reasonable during these "discussions" but I am trying. Please don't be offended by my disagreeing with you.

I think you're suffering from some confirmation bias, the willingness to see those things which confirm your suppositions while ignoring those that you don't agree with. Specifically, things like teen pregnancy, shootings and diseases (not AIDS) were around a lot longer than 50 yrs. ago. Most people married as teenagers and had children then. Indeed, the best time for your body to have children is when you are a teenager. Not so much on school shootings but statistically, schools are one of the safest places you can be. There may have been some in the past but not widely reported as instant communications has become more prevalent in the last 50 yrs. There were lots of disease that you could get then without vaccines. It's not sex or some form of immorality that causes diseases.

Also, the reason church attendance and religiosity in general has declined isn't because of liberalism so much as it is economics and consumerism. Businesses demanded the laws be changed so they could be open on Sundays to make more money. People, when given the chance, chose shopping over attending church.

Best,

-American Atheist

Chimera said...

In other words, AA, give the people what they want and it turns out that what they don't want is religion?

Sounds reasonable.

Brandon J said...

Oiy; I don't mean to patronize but I always here these arguments. Abortion was around since time began - since humans realized sex equaled children we've tried to control birth somehow. Gays have been around forever. So has murder.

The point is ... so what? Those facts that those sins exist, doesn't make them any less the sin.

Now regardless if we agree on those being sins. What you cannot deny is the EXPLOSION of the occurrence of them. Do you think one-parent families are good? Do you think teens shooting their schools are good (ok let's face it, that one never existed in the 1950s or before...) Do you think teen pregnancies are good?

Actually the best time to have children is late 20s early 30s, I don't know where you get this "teens" idea from; teens who have children (women) are more likely to have ovarian and other vaginal cancers.

Things have not gotten better because of Secularism.

Now is Secularism at fault? I think so - but you probably don't, and we could argue that until we're blue in the face...doesn't matter so much as the next point.

Is the US becoming more Secular? The answer is no.

In the North-East, and in parts of California, yes.

But in the rest of the US, Churches are increasing at break-neck speed, more and more people are being "evangelized" and I think in the next 30 years the US will look far more religious than it has in the last 30 years.

The last 30 years are a product of the collapse of Christianity due to the Christian Left's disastrous reforms, which began long before but took-off during the 1960s. 1961 to be exact.

Now...it wasn't until the late 1980s and 1990s that Conservative Christianity took-up the slack, so we have seen a steady drop in Christian Left churches, and Catholicism.

But Evangelical Churches are on the rise, in the West - Evangelical Churches grew over 20% in membership over 1990-2000...the Western Population grew only 18% in that time period.

In the South the churches hold steadfast, makes sense, most of the South is already Christian and Evangelical.

In the Pacific North West, the number of Evangelical Churches have more than quadrupled in just the last few years.

So; whether or not sins have existed before, doesn't matter, it is undeniable that secularism occurred at the same time as the greatest decline in US morals, and civic health (correlation? Probably). And it is evident that most of the US is "Christianizing" beginning about 1988.

Atheism isn't going to hold water, sorry to say...

Brandon J said...

Before the Collapse of Christianity all this talk of "religious relativism" (accepting other religions) and amoralism, or humanism, or atheism, would not be credible. Because of the collapse of Christianity people can question whether or not the founding fathers were even Christians. The answer is an astounding yes, and were they secularists? No. But society questions it in the collapse of Christianity.

So what caused the collapse?

Well a theology called post-millennialism.

In this theory, Christians began to believe that they could create a "heaven on earth" where everyone was harmonized, peaceful, etc. It began in the 1850s and grew into a larger movement engulfing Europe and the Christian Left in the United States.

They forsook the ideas of original sin, they gave-up the ideas the Bible is an "inspired book" and they basically turned from every fundamental belief of Christianity. Hence around the 1890s and 1900s Fundamentalism was born...to reaffirm what most "Christian Right" people view as the truth of the Gospel.

Now...when you're a hippie...or the 1910 version of a hippie.

If you believed the world was getting better, because of God and Christ.

If you believed that make love not war was real.

World War One would kinda dampen your mood a bit...and it did.

It shattered the Post-Millennial movement and shattered European, and Christian-Left Christianity with it.

It was a slow death, that was drowned out in materialism of the 1920s and the oppression of Fascism the failure of Democracy in the 1930s...and more war in the 1940s.

It was only after the 1960s that the collapse of Christianity began to turn around...why?

Mainly because Christian Rightists held-on to Evangelical beliefs, and have propagated the word of God back into the hearts and minds of people...

Where we're trending therefore is not related to where we've been.

For the first time in over 60 years...Churches are being planted in Europe!! For the FIRST TIME!

Europe has been without Christ for over 60 years...almost 100; in large part, and we've seen what a crap hole it's become.

And the US is trending that way...or was...until the Evangelical Movement got on its feet.

And it's only gotten stronger.

Almost twice as many Churches were planted in 1990-2000, as were planted in 1980-1990.

And the trend has been upward since then...the final data isn't going to be released until about 2011...but it'll be interesting to see how much it has changed.

Now, Secularism, Atheism, Historical Revisionism, has been allowed to exist in the vacuum of Christianity...but I don't think it will be there for long; unless some disaster prevents the people from taking back their schools from the Government, or the media from the heathens...

Etc.

Anonymous said...

I've just got to disagree with you here, Brandon. Our personal views on the importance of faith aside, you're trying to whitewash a whole lot of empirical reality in a way that is either intellectually lazy - like relying on post-hoc corrolation (secularism is tied to teen pregnancy?) - or outright ignorant-sounding (Europe is a crap hole?).

The assertion that school shootings, STD's, teen pregnancy, murders, and a whole host of other social ills are related to secularism is a widely asserted fact, but one that is significantly short on analysis or empirical research.

Absent these factors, the only way to justify the assertion is with the blatantly bigoted premise that people without faith are more immoral. Not only is this stunningly insulting and a sentiment that could come but with a single-word substitution out of the mouth of the most virulent type of chauvenist or racist, but it's flatly contradicted by existing evidence and studies.

Studies of predominantly secular countries show no greater incidence of social ills; indeed a recent study that looked at many different indicators of social pathology (like teen pregnancy, murders, and the like) found a strong positive corrolation between the religiosity of the society and it's heightened pathology.

If secularism is tied to social ills, why are prison populations overwhelmingly religious? Where are the (statistically expected) atheist 10% of the population who are the murderers, rapists, and theives? The answer of course, is that secularism is positively tied to educational attainment, which is tied to economic prosperity - meaning that the non-religious tend, as a wholly unrelated consequence of their education, to be impoverished less often (and are given less incentive to commit many types of crimes).

No, it seems much more likely that corrolation isn't going to do you any favors here. It is indeed much MORE likely that the decline in religiosity is simply due to the growing realization that religion is simply unnecessary to explain empirical or moral truths, while the social pathologies are due to other factors like the prevalence of poverty, the inescapability of a cycle of poor education, or a culture which promotes violence and sexuality (if the thought crossed your mind that secularism promotes violence and sexuality, I'm going to have to point you to my previous comments about religious bigotry as an analogue to chauvenism and racism). Indeed, it appears quite plausible that these social ills are the result of changing social mores and advances in technology which have absolutely nothing to do with the Constitutional demand that government be handled in a way that leaves religious choices up to the consciences of its citizenry.

Your position ALSO demands that we rely on nationalistic tendencies to view the USA as being the best of all possible worlds, while ignoring the unassailable fact that on virtually every indicator of social health (infant mortality, literacy, life expectancy, percent graduating from high school, percent graduating from college, percent obtaining advance degrees, access to health care, access to dental care, access to vision care, proper nutrition, human rights support, foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, environmental protection, and a whole host of others), vast swaths of Europe rank well above the United States in the data tables. Your argument requires us to ignore the available data on the matter - with no given reason to do so other than the unstated bias that seems to pervade nationalists everywhere (that MY country is better, no matter what 'reality' says).

Frankly, it just seems intellectually degrading to make the argument. There's serious room for discussion about the necessity of religion for spiritual health, but the assertion that spiritual well-being is somehow tied to social dysfunction is simply not borne out by the evidence.

--MD

Brandon J said...

What's intellectually degrading is your inability to connect dots it's really quite simple. Ok You argue that the prison population is largely religious. Well first; what is the prison population generally? First it's immigrants then it's Blacks, both are religious and both are in prison because of the nature of our society - which forces extreme competition and crime into lower economic brackets as a by-product mostly of immigration itself. The Irish used to make up the majority of crime in the US...when Irish were the most immigrating.

Now the other aspect of that is the Prisons are full of the Prison Fellowship ministries, converting people to Christ.

So you have to ask how many of those populations actually took religion serious before going to prison?

And you accuse me of "post hoc correlation".

Now my points actually are (to keep it real simple) that the US was founded by Christian men, NOT SECULARISTS. We didn't have the plethora of social ills we do today...when we were led by a "politically incorrect" WASP government...

Just pennies for YOUR thought.

My other point is that Christians do on a whole behave better than secularists...and behold, the largest problems with teen truancy or delinquency, the largest problems of pregnancies or abortions, the largest problems of drug use, of violence, of crime are not in RELIGIOUS populations.

They are in Secular populations primarily in the more secular urban regions like Portland, SF area, New York City...

I mean come on New York City has 10 times the rate of AIDS as Salt Lake City.

Explain that one!

One is a debaucherous festering hole, the other is a religious (too religious even for Evangelicals) whirlwind.

So like I said, correlations can be made - they are not post hoc as you put it.

Why is it the more religious parts of the country seem to suffer less of the problems of the more secular parts?

CrypticLife said...

So you have to ask how many of those populations actually took religion serious before going to prison?

Recidivism.

Christian men, NOT SECULARISTS

Not mutually exclusive. Also, many of the FF made specifically anti-Christian statements.

school shootings

In such urban centers as Littleton and Red Lake.

I mean come on New York City has 10 times the rate of AIDS as Salt Lake City.

Explain that one!


Are you joking? You go on and on about immigration and poverty and then ask this? Your leaps from base statistics to conclusions are unwarranted. You're using statistics to confirm positions you already hold, rather than building conclusions from the statistics. This is very difficult error to overcome, so I don't look down on you for it -- but it remains an error.

Jim51 said...

CrypticLife,

"school shootings

In such urban centers as Littleton and Red Lake"

Well put. The idea that
"...the more religious parts of the country seem to suffer less of the problems of the more secular parts"
is preposterous. Anyone can pick an historical event and then declare that all our troubles began when that happened. It's nonsense. Things are very much more complicated than that.
The telltale signs of someone who knows nothing but believes they know everything are much too apparent in Brandon's comments.
"...Europe is a crap hole..."
"...problems of pregnancies...not in religious populations..."
:...if you knew anything about history..."
And while many of the countries founders were, in fact, Christians, many very prominent ones were not really, certainly not by the current standards of fundamentalist christians in the US today: Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and Paine among them. Three of those four worked very hard against the establishment of a religiously connected government. The written works of these men are available free to anyone with a library card.
Jim51

Anonymous said...

Brandon - Your assumption is both bigoted and not supported by the evidence.

You yourself even provide the answer to your own question - albeit you don't seem to realize that you do.

Why are urban centers more prone to social ills than rural areas? Because they are urban centers and not rural areas. New York City has a high crime rate because it is a high-tension arena in which radically different social classes mingle amidst racial tensions, overcrowding, alienation caused by the overcrowding, and other factors.

It is only your assumption - an assumption unsupported by the evidence you present - that religion comes into play in suppressing social ills while secular alternatives (like ethics, community spirit, education, and others) do not fulfill the same roles. Worse yet, it is not only unwarranted by the evidence you present (which is none, thus far), but it is contradicted by the evidence. Studies of secular areas fare no worse in indicators of social ills than to religious areas - and internationally, they tend to fare better. Swedes claim almost a 70% nonreligious population, and yet they somehow show up the United States year after year on studies of incidence social dysfunction and pathology.

Indeed, Salt Lake City might have a lower rate of AIDS incidence than does New York, but I somehow doubt that you're waiting in the wings with a report from the Lancet with an epidemiological study confirming this fact and showing that it is due to religiosity (as opposed to the unrelated concept of engaging in oppressive social repression which is an option for both religious and secular social institutions alike).

No, once again, you simply present an argument whose foundational premise is one of bigotry. You demand that people ignore the blatant facts of history, as well as the empirical scholarship about the state of both our nation and others. And worst of all, you demand that we proclaim the past as an era of lesser social dysfunction - without ever even discussing that this very era (free from school shootings) denied the equality of women, forbade miscegenation, engaged in slavery of Africans and Native Americans on the basis of race, regularly allowed beatings of children, had no disapproval of harsh child labor, and in which only the rarest of individuals would obtain an education we would today count as being equivalent to a high-school diploma - the bare minimum standard of educational attainment. With these in mind, I think your case that the 'Christian' past (something you've still yet to prove) was freer of social dysfunction than the present is simply an unwarranted conclusion. Honestly, it looks much more like the ordinary 'legendary past' thinking that hallmarks many social groups' forms of cultural nostalgia.

Your argument is not responsible as an argument, and it's not a strong argument either. You have better arguments at your disposal. It boggles the mind to figure out why you aren't using them instead.

--MD

Jim51 said...

MD,
Well done. I have come to look forward to your posts as they are quite articulate and reasonable. They account for complexity rather than gloss over it.
I spent about 2 and a half minutes checking just one of Brandon's claims,
"...problems of pregnancies...not in religious populations..."
and discovered that in 2005 the two states with the highest rates of teen pregnancy were Texas and New Mexico, in that order.
Apparently Texas is "a debaucherous festering hole."
I have a feeling that the very numerous fundamentalist christians in Texas would be surprised to hear this.
Jim51

Brandon J said...

Oiy you make the SAME generalizations as I do. Salt Lake City, an urban area with as much density (in fact more) than New York City...New York City has 10 times the rate of AIDS.

Why is it AIDS is highest among "men having sex with men"? It seems like religion eliminates a lot of that right there since it doesn't condone homosexuality in any way.

And Texas and New Mexico both have the 2nd and 3rd highest number of Mexican immigrants, it is demographically proven that the highest teen pregnancies are with the Mexican minorities.

So...thanks for trying to slander Texas but it's an immigration problem, not a culture problem.

Again - the US was founded by Christian sectarian men. White Anglo Saxon Protestants.

If you have a problem with the US Constitution, even as it is today (which was reconstructed by WASPS) maybe you should review the greatness of the nation you live in.

It wasn't built by Atheists, or secularists...and the country as it is being shaped now isn't getting better but worse. What is different between 1800 and 2000?

Pretty much only the religiosity of the US.

The Founding Fathers expected (James Madison and Thomas Jefferson can be quoted) that Christianity would provide the moral support to make a Democracy function.

Brandon J said...

I just want to re-emphasize the uncritical claims of Jim51...I mean really. You don't think that teen pregnancies are a big issue among Latino immigrant families?

It's a little odd don't you think that Texas AND New Mexico share some of the highest teen pregnancies? I can give you another one...Nevada...and another...California.

Here's another one! Colorado!

And another! Arizona!

Gasp!

Let's see what's the common denominator in them all...immigration.

Latino immigration is largest in the West (including Texas) and second in the South.

I suggest you compare demographic reports and not state reports next time you do your little fact checking...

Anonymous said...

Brandon - do you not see how your response defeats you own claims?

Is the issue of teen pregnancy high among Latino immigrants to the United States? You bet. But by laying the answer to this problem at the doorstep of immigration, you have removed it from religion. After all, those very immigrants whose cultural mores you are demonizing are not secularists. They are not atheists. They are non non-religionists. They are overwhelmingly religious, and overwhelmingly Christian.

This quite simply contradicts your earlier placement of blame for the social dysfunction.

Further, your suggestion that religiosity is the only real difference between 1800 and today is simply belied by history. Technology has blossomed, allowing humans to understand the world around them far better than before (Did you know that George Washington died of blood loss from too many bloodlettings in a row in an attempt to cure his flu? We would shake our heads in disbelief at these medical treatments today).

We have come to appreciate the value of other cultures, other races, other religions, other genders, other sexual identities, and our elders and children in ways wholly unrelated to religion.

We have been exposed to ethical theories unheard of in 1800. We have been privileged to live in a society where education to levels undreamed of by our forefathers is not just a possibility, but one made unremarkable by its common nature.

To drive the point home even further, I have to point out that you once again assert the lesser extent of social dysfunction in the past while utterly failing to address how you came to this conclusion given the press of other social ills I presented to you earlier.

Your claim that religion condemns homosexuality is simply ethnocentric in the extreme. Religion doesn't condemn homosexuality - your religion condemns homosexuality. And even your co-religionists wouldn't all agree with you (indeed I would doubt that you could get a majority to agree with you). After all, Christianity's condemnation of homosexuality is found sandwiched among other things that are 'abominations' like eating shellfish or planting a field with two types of grain.

Finally, I doubt your grasp on the relevant epidemiological statistics. The CDC itself notes that fewer than half of new HIV cases in the last year for which relevant data has been processed (2006) were due to homosexual sexual contact. The majority came through heterosexual contact and injection drug use.

Present me a non-bigoted reason to believe that the insistence that government stay out of the religious lives of its citizens helps to spread HIV, and you'll have a position worth serious discussion. Until then, your position simply sounds like a form of cultural nostalgia that comes about from watching "It's a wonderful life" too many times.

--MD

Jim51 said...

Brandon,
Those Mexican immigrants who you say are responsible for the high rate of teen pregnancies are also highly religious, generally speaking. It was your claim that religion fixes that. My claim was that things are more complex than that. Clearly things are more complex than that when a highly religious population is contributing disproportionally to the teen pregnancy problem. There are other such examples, several of which MD pointed out.
Your comprehension has failed you when you suggest that I was slandering Texas. Quite clearly that was sarcasm. You, however, slandered several hundred million people including all of Europe and several locations in the US.
You should not try to argue in an evidentiary manner. It's not your strength.
For example, please indicate the evidence you have that Europe is a "crap hole." Have you ever lived there? Have you ever been there? Can you read their periodicals in their languages? Have you ever done business there?
It would also be interesting to see your evidence that christianity is the one "True religion." Religiously bigotted statements like that make it clear that you couldn't care less about evidence.
And MD's points about our wonderful "Christian" past including
"...denied the equality of women, forbade miscegenation, engaged in slavery of Africans and Native Americans on the basis of race, regularly allowed beatings of children, had no disapproval of harsh child labor..."
was totally ignored by you. Explain it away if you can. And if you try we will expect you to explain away the christian and biblical arguments used by christians to defend slavery.
Yes, there are differences between the US in 1800 and in 2000. To suggest that the level of religiosity is "pretty much the only" difference is ignorance on parade.
And again, some(arguably most) of our founders were "Christian sectarian men" and some were not. And "secularists" (whoever that is) and atheists have always been part of the nation and they, too, contrary to your claim, participated in the building of it.
Jim51

Chimera said...

From Thu Dec 04, 03:01:00 AM EST: "The point is ... so what? Those facts that those sins exist, doesn't make them any less the sin."

Facts? Sins? Those two words do not belong in the same thought sequence, never mind in a philosophy.

"Sin" only exists in the minds of people who take it upon themselves to judge others according to their own peculiarities. It does not exist for those of us who like to live our own lives according to our own measures of what is good or bad for ourselves, and who refuse to judge other people for making the same kinds of choices, even when they make personal choices we would not necessarily choose for ourselves.

John Donne was wrong. Every man IS an island. He'd better be. It's what keeps him sane.

CrypticLife said...

MD, you were too kind.

What is different between 1800 and 2000?

Pretty much only the religiosity of the US.


Brendan, you've paralyzed me -- I can't stop laughing after this.

Anonymous said...

As long as we're piling on, the following was written in rebuttal to another Roanoke Times opinion piece.

-American Atheist

http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/commentary/wb/186280

I take great offense at Tom Taylor's commentary in Sunday's Horizon section ("The state should pray in Christ's name," Nov. 30). Taylor is either historically ignorant or dogmatically arrogant in his appraisal of the value of Christian missionaries to the non-Christian peoples they have "converted" at the barrel of a gun for centuries. In Jesus's words, "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."

The assertion that only by the spread of Christianity have nations become civilized is akin to saying that the Holocaust made Germany a better place to live. Christians have always portrayed non-Christian civilizations as backward, underdeveloped, superstitious and barbaric.

What underlies all of their criticism is that these cultures do not accept Jesus as the son of God. This is what, in the Christians' opinion, deems these cultures as needing their help, when in fact their intolerance and fervor to destroy any theistic conception other than Christianity shows that they are the true barbarians. The arrival of Christianity erased noble cultures and rich belief systems that were often more civilized, generous and peaceful than those of the European invaders.

As Taylor cites Fiji, I'll ask you to consider neighboring Tahiti. Captain Cook wrote of Tahitians, "these happy islands and the good people on them. It would have been far better for these poor people never to have known us." The mutiny on the Bounty was a revolt against the orders of Captain Bligh to leave idyllic Tahiti and return to Christian England.

Nevertheless, in 1797, the London Missionary Society put its first missionaries on the shores of Tahiti. Fourteen years later, they had not made one convert, although the Tahitians had provided them with servants galore, built their houses and fed them.

Eventually, the missionaries would ply the local chief, Pomare, with alcohol and provide him firearms to defeat rival chiefs in the understanding that all Tahitians would then convert to Christianity. A reign of terror followed in which nonbelievers were killed. A population of some 200,000 on Tahiti was reduced to roughly 6,000 during 30 years of missionary terror that included slavery, starvation, torture, disease and other enlightened Christian practices.

Closer to home, on his first voyage, Columbus noted: "The people of this island [Hispaniola] and of all other islands which I have found and seen are so free with all they possess, that no one would believe it without having seen it. Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts."

As a good Christian he added, "With the help of God, we shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of Their Highness. We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them."

Taylor goes on to credit Christian belief with the existence of "liberty, self-governance and scientific advance." Today, Christians advance liberty by banning gay marriage, self-governance by invading Iraq and by building military bases in "self-governing" nations around the world, and science by opposing stem-cell research and promoting intelligent design and the idea that the world is only 6,000 years old.

Mathematics, democracy, metallurgy, astronomy, surgery and anesthesia, irrigation and agriculture were all discovered before the life of Jesus Christ. Those who tried to advance some of those discoveries were persecuted as heretics during the times of Christian tyranny in the Dark Ages and Inquisition.

To his main point: Of course police chaplains cannot pray to Jesus in their capacity as paid employees of the state at formal functions. In their private lives, they may pray to any God they wish. Nobody is forbidding them to pray, but they should not be allowed to promote a single religion in a country that regards religious freedom as important enough to include in its Bill of Rights. I applaud the state police superintendent for proactively taking this step.

Anonymous said...

Crap!! We missed the obvious one. Mary, mother of Jesus, was an unwed teenage mother!

-American Atheist

Chimera said...

That article in the Roanoke Times was written by someone named Dan Brown. The Dan Brown??? Brilliant, whoever he is.

Unwed teenage mother? LOL! So, it's always been a case of, "Do what I say and not as I do," with them?

Doug Indeap said...

The government's addition of the words "under God" to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 and adoption of the phrase "In God we trust" as a national motto in 1956 were mistakes, which should be corrected. Under the First Amendment, our government has no business promoting or otherwise taking steps to establish religion. The government certainly shouldn't be proclaiming in a motto on the money it prints for us that it--or we--trust in god. That's just not the government's role. The unnecessary insertion of an affirmation of a god in the very pledge that our government calls on its citizens to recite in affirmation of their allegiance to our republic puts atheists and other nonbelievers in a Catch 22: Either recite the pledge with rank hypocrisy or accept exclusion from one of the basic rituals of citizenship enjoyed by all other citizens. The government has no business forcing citizens to this choice on religious grounds.