So to take a small break from my journey, I’ve decided that on Saturdays I will write a blog about something that has been prevalent on my mind for the prior week. In this weeks article I would like to talk about my own opinions on the Separation of church and state, both from my former theist beliefs and from my current atheist stance. So without further ado, let’s get to it.
Matt the Theist:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” – “Thomas Jefferson “The Declaration of Independence”
As a Christian, this line from the, “Declaration of Independence,” is first and foremost in my mind. How can you deny that our founders based the US on Christian theology? It’s written right there when they mention the creator. Not only that but without the creator we wouldn’t have any rights to defend. It seemed fairly clear to me that when the founders created this nation of ours, they wanted a place to be free from government instituted faith and be free to worship God in the way the Bible intended.
The Separation of church and state doesn’t even exist since it wasn’t explicitly written into the constitution and the only thing we must guard against is the government taking over religion. On the other hand, religion taking over the government, if it is the will of the people, is not only fine but would lead us to a much more godly and good society. The government without god infused into it, is a system that is doomed to fail. We cannot expect to receive God’s blessing if we don’t fully submit to him and create the type of government that he would accept.
According to the Bible, the government, or those in authority, play a key role in the faith. Romans 13:4 states…
“For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
So from that scripture we can see that God expects the government to dole out his justice, in punishing the evil doer and rewarding the good. Outside of this the government should have no role in dictating how I choose to worship outside of providing a safe environment to worship. If we get Christian leaders into government positions, those who really love God, we will see the blessings of God in our economy, our families, and our foreign policies.
How can we expect a secular government to lead us in a way that will be pleasing to God? Look at this sinful world, and all the evil that runs rampant. Women are killing their children, men and women are marrying members of the same-sex, and some states have made the right to commit suicide available to their citizens. The fool has said in his heart that there is no god and we are a country that is obviously run by fools.
Matt the Atheist:
“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” – Thomas Jefferson “Notes on the State of Virginia”
I’m sorry but the separation of church and state is clearly implied by our constitution and the various writings by our founders. They did not set out to create a nation that was pleasing to god, but a nation that was pleasing to the many. The very fact that a good majority of our founders, Jefferson included, were deists, points to the secular roots that they were attempting to add to our constitution.
As the declaration mentions a creator, it is the creator of deism, a god that creates and then goes away, that granted us our rights. Even the word granted is a bit of a misnomer because without the rights to do as we please, the inhabitants in a deist universe would have no capability of living a fruitful life. The founders were not pointing to the goodness and greatness of an all-powerful god, but to the fact that we have the ability to do as we please here on Earth, so we might as well do something good.
The separation of church and state is crucial to preventing our country from becoming a christian version of a sharia controlled nation. If you want to see apostates hanging in the streets, women stoned in front of their families, and anyone who follows a non-christian faith burnt at the stake, let the separation be torn down. In this country we enjoy the freedom to pursue as well as the freedom to abstain from religion. This would not be a possibility in a nation that lacks this separation.
If we were to say that this separation does not exist, the next question would be, Which denomination gets to decide how we are to rule? If democracy is the key then I would have to assume that our nation would be run by fundamentalist evangelicals seeking to create god’s kingdom on earth. If not democracy than would it simply be whichever denomination is able to take power at any given moment. This week we are run by Catholics and so we must observe the sacraments, next week the Pentecostals take over and so each night is ended with speaking in tongues and the laying on of hands?
Lastly, not a single advance in human history has come from those who conservatively follow their faith. The freeing of slaves, women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights were all brought about by people who bucked the system and said, “What we have believed up to this point has been wrong and we should change things up!” This type of change would not be possible in a world ran by the devoutly religious, as god’s law would be final.
We have come so far in the last few decades that to turn back now would be devastating. Which rights are you willing to give up in order to please a particular version of god? Does the woman’s right to choose go out the window? Do we strip homosexual men and women of their marriage certificates? Do we strip the rights of African-Americans and return them to the supposed “curse of ham?”
If there is anything that is sacred, or at least comes close to sacred in a secular society, the separation of church and state has to be it. As Christopher Hitchens said often, “Mr. Jefferson, build up that wall!”