My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

May 2005

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31        

« The Wrong Standard | Main | A Buggy Car/Phone Combo; Customers, Not Companies, to Rescue »

March 26, 2005


Professor rat

While I mantain that our modern society is a Greco-Renaissance one of science, reason and the humanistic arts NOT a mono-maniacal judeo- Xtian revival of the dark ages for dark eschatological purposes, there is one from the late middle ages, a priest actually who we need to bless and thank this day. William of Occam taught us that where there are two competing theories or propostions that the simpler one was to be preferred. So where there is no need no of gods we need have no need of any god. Thanks to Occams razor we can cut out all the god bullshit and get on with defending and extending the enlightenment. With the Greco- rennaissance society that leads to the stars not the Gilead dead end that leads to extinction. The choice could not be more stark. Death to theocracy means life for planet earth.


From the secular perspective:
President Bush and his conservative allies in the Congress, and in government elsewhere, have ridden on the back of the tiger, fundamentalism; and, now, they find themselves inside the beast.
While there are individual exceptions to all generalizations, no matter in what belief system and what culture I have encountered the "fundamentalist" element, anywhere on the globe, this rule tends to apply: The strong of heart are the weak of mind.
Kirkegard's retelling of the story of Abraham is very instructive. Ultimately, belief is and act of FAITH not an act of REASON. I stopped trying to reason with
faith-based individuals and their initiatives years ago.


I don't know about Greco-Rennaisance. Really we have the Romans to thank for Christian fundamentalism. Constantine in the 4th century, on making christianity fit for the empire eliminated (physically) all diversity of views and imposed the Nicene creed. Anyone who disagreed thereafter was a heretic and dealt with harshly. And we are stuck now with this religion which has been gutted of Jesus's original message. But I do agree, long live Occam!

Joe Zekas

"... a full-scale Jihad ..."

If you want to know why your profession is losing its credibility, all you need to do is give a moment's thought to this quote.

What a bizarre and grotesque distortion of language and history!


First off, thanks to Dan for this blog link. It was an interesting article that is needed in our times.

Having stated that, I also have to state that I don't agree totally with the article in so far as it paints an either or picture. You are either on the side of Tom Delay and George Bush, or your on the side of culture and reasonable people. What if you believe these are not the only choices? These are the choices Tom Delay and George Bush want us to believe, but just because they state so, doesn't make it so.

I think what is missing is exploration into why there is a moral and religious upcry. Even though I don't believe the snake-oil Delay and Bush are trying to sell, it doesn't mean that the groundswell they are trying to capitalize on is not there. The groundswell is driven by the culture, mainly Hollywood and liberal elist driven, that basically states that morals are irrelevent and everyone should accept everyone else no matter what vices they promote. The stance is that culture is the determining factor, whether it be on moral issues (abortion, marriage), or on scientific issues (evolution, medicine, etc.).

This is what upsets middle America, which isn't a geological group. Middle America is the majority of people who are not right and who are not left. They are the group that pays their taxes, wants their kids to have a better life, and doesn't want too much government, nor too little government in their lives.

Middle America states that they are upset at the bombardment of culture that forces kids out of their innocense too early in life. They want some control, but they don't want censorship.

Middle America states that they want to be able to worship wherever they choose and not have society and culture dictate what they should believe. If they want to attend a church that states that homosexuality is a behavior choice, not an inherent physcial condition one is born with, then they should be allowed to believe this. They want to believe that Evolution is how God may have made things, but that God could have played a part and that life has meaning. They want to believe that one can see God's hand in nature and that it is good, not that it just happened per chance. Most of all they don't want to be told from either the right or the left what they should believe.

This is what the article misses. It misses the vast middle of America. It misses the hard working souls that just want a good life for their families. They are neither rich nor poor, left or right. Middle America needs a voice. It is time the press starts paying attention to its needs.

Just my two cents.


I mostly agree with TC. "Middle America" used to be called the "Silent Majority" by Reagan (I think.) The destruction of the mainstream media, who does not understand nor report on this Silent Majority, and the rise of alternative media, which provides many avenues for the Silent Majority, will keep Republicans in power for awhile - as long as the Republicans don't stray too far from conservative ideals. Regardless, the country is basically conservative. Bush ran as a proud conservative and Kerry had to act conservative to win over votes. Heck, some of Clinton's greatest successes were conservative in nature. (Does anyone really think Clinton would have signed Welfare Reform if the Republicans didn't win the House?)

I guess if you ask people how they want to live, I suppose people would say they would rather be married, be ethical, moral, etc. Who strives for divorce? Who strives to be unethical or immoral? I odn't know who said it, but I think people want to to "live life right", rather than just "live life."
Today, people are looking for some sort of spiritual guidance in many places. They may dislike organized religion, but you can see a yearning for "something more".

To Rich's article, we're not in a "Theocracy." But we are a country with deeps roots in Judeo-Christian teachings. It's been here since day one. Our legal system and moral code is based on it. This "separation of Church and State", while I agree with some of it, is not in the Constitution. At the same time, people were talking about religion and the aspects between the federal government and states (remember, it means no national religion like the King's; each state could have their own religion, though, and many did), they were passing official proclamations and bills that were laced with religious thought. In other words, people weren't idiots by limiting religion on one hand and supporting it on the other hand; the notion of "separtion of church and state" was between the federal system and the states. Of course not everyone was religious back then, but most were.

You guys can think Bush is trying to create a "theocracy", but the reality is most of the country falls under the traditional aspects of our founding. With alternative media, this Silent Majority has woken up.

I can see how many people get flumoxed over conservatives (the Republican's very imperfect application of conservatism makes it even more difficult), but once this Judeo-Christian basis for our culture is understood, it makes sense.

Now, where does that leave the people who dislike this Judeo-Christian ethic? Our system can be changed by changing the Constitution. And the conservatives may fight the changes, but this is how a democracy is supposed to work. This is where this "judicial activism" comes in and why conservatives want judges who will follow the constitution. If enough people want something changed, then it's the PEOPLE who are supposed to do it, not some judge. When we allow a judge to make law, we have collectively given up the power of the people. It's a nice feeling on both sides to be able to stack the judiciary with like minded judges, but it's wrong. This idea that the constitution is a "living document" is the height of usurpation of our Democracy to a few judges.


People sometimes forget that our civilization has grown out of the interplay between the Greco-Roman pagan/Humanist culture and Christian culture -- sometimes a dance, sometimes a bloody fight. Both sides bring strengths to our culture, and enrich it. We impoverish ourselves if we turn away from either, as the two sides of America's political divide are now doing.

As to Al's posting, separation of Church and State is indeed in the Constitution, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and Jefferson considered it one of the great achievements of his life. We forget today that the three centuries preceding the American Revolution were full of wars over religion and religious persecution (including slaughters of one side by another). Even at the time of the Revolution, voting rights and government posts were closed to people of the 'wrong' religions in some of the colonies, for example, Catholics and Jews in tolerant Rhode Island.

If the Greco-Roman side has lost its way a bit, I think. We no longer teach Greco-Roman philosophers (or indeed, any Ancient thinkers) in most schools, now that we no longer teach Latin or Greek. Nor do we teach logic or rhetoric, the other principal source of exposure to Greco-Roman ethics and morals. How many of us grow up thinking, as the Romans did, that service to the Republic was the highest good, and the most virtuous life was a public one? We're rarely even exposed to the idea! As a society, we need to turn back to our Greco-Roman origins, as well as appreciate our Christian ones.


TomD, I have to disgaree about your interpretation of the Establishment Clause. The idea behind it was to fend off the establishment of something like the Church of England. Put yourself back in 1775. At least nine of the colonies had their own supported religions and they didn't want a federal religion. They wanted to be left alone. In general, people had to profess a certain kind of Christian doctrine to hold public office or enjoy other legal privilege. Official support for religious faith and state religious requirements for public office persisted well after adoption of the First Amendment. The established church of Massachusetts was not abolished until 1833!
The clause reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, ..." They said this at the same time that much of the language and discourse was laced with religious thought. Were they idiots and/or hypocrites? By your and many other people's interpretation, the answer is yes. The reality is the answer is no. The clause is there to protect the states. This shield for the states has been turned into a sword.
(Btw, I'm pulling some of this from
The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition by M. Stanton Evans
An excerpt is here and it's very good: You'll need to download a ZIP file.)

The Fourteenth Amendment, then, "applied" the Bill of Rights to the states. So the shield of the First Amendment now becomes a sword? One thing we know for sure is that it did not prohibit officially sponsored prayer. As we have seen, Congress itself engaged in officially sponsored, tax-supported prayer, complete with paid official chaplains, from the very outset-- and continues to do so to this day. If we accept your reasoning, both Congress and many elected officials violated the intended meaning of the First Amendment from its inception.The more logical conclusion, of course, is that Congress knew much better what it meant by the language adopted. And in the view of Congress, there was nothing either in law or in logic to bar it from engaging in officially sponsored, tax-supported prayer, then or ever. It follows that the amendment can't possibly bar the states from doing likewise.

As for Madison and Jefferson, read the second link about both of them. Madison surely did write about this subject, but his views didn't pass. The majority view passed. The later courts selectively applied his later writings. Now to Jefferson. The anomaly here is that Jefferson was not a member of the Constitutional Convention, or of the Congress that considered the Bill of Rights, or of the Virginia ratifying convention. The court is relying on a letter Jefferson wrote 13 years after a series of events that he did not participate in.

Why did I go to so much trouble? Because the schools do such a poor job of teaching history, that most people don't realize what the country is based on. We're not a theocracy now. This Frank Rich ought to read up on a few things.

The other importance to all of this is this screwy notion that the Constitution is a "living document." It's not. A The people have the right to change it, including adding in language that strips religion from the government. By allowing the courts to make these very important decisions for us, we, the people, are giving up some of our most precious power. We should make changes, not the courts.

Anyways, I greatly suggest you (all) read the article. If you want, I have a copy that I can email.


TC makes good points and, amazingly, I find myself agreeing with much of what Al writes about our historical foundations--but I do believe a political power bloc favoring something that looks and smells like theocracy is being forced on our nation.

We need not reject the foundations of our nation...largely western European and understand and accept that worship of many forms is protected by our Constitution, and that the richness of our society is enhanced by people with other backgrounds. Government is not a creation of God, but a reflection of the need for rules to ensure respect for society on earth. Across the major religions runs a consistent stream of civic virtues that transcend the religious practices. But just as Moslem terrorists have distorted the teachings of Mohammed for their own terrible purposes, so too do Christian terrorists turn their backs on the gentle teachings of Christ.

The failure of much of the religious right wing of the Republican party is not in their support for those 18th century foundations. It the twisted way that the teachings of Christ are used to justify precisely the opposite of those teachings, and the civic values upon which our society was based. Christ taught love, compassion, forgiveness; the people in power in Washington cynically use hatred, discrimination, misplaced patriotic fervor and ignorance to advance personal wealth and power. Make no mistake about it...the ownership society so bereft of charity and empathy has more to do with the business plan than any design for the afterlife.

God doesn't need our help to judge and punish sin. His rules are sufficient for His purposes, and the laws that rule society can and should reflect an underlying ethic...but those civic values also can and should reflect the diversity of society, not one approach to worship. In the Inquisition, in pogroms, in the holocaust and in the protracted warfare inspired by contemporary religious bigotry, we Christians have shown an amazing arrogance in ruthlessly killing anybody that doesn't worship as we do -- arrogance. We luxuriate in our Phariseean confidence that we alone can divine what God wants and intends, and we convince ourselves that we must make up for His shortcomings in punishing "real" sins here on earth instead of waiting for Him to deal with them through eternity. Conveniently, the sins we punish are the ones we don't see ourselves committing, and the mode of worship we choose is the One True Religion we happen to support.

Those who would rule our nation with such narrowness of mind and emptiness of character actually diminish the power and authority of God by their actions purporting to be in His name. If the teachings of Christianity are valid, the punishment for their overwhelming pride and disrespect will come in the next life; unfortunately, that won't help the poor, the weak, and those with the bad judgement to look, act and worship differently than the powerful who control this life.


(Owen, what do you mean "amazingly"??? I've got a big grin.)

The only point I'll make is to comment on your statement "the ownership society so bereft of charity and empathy has more to do with the business plan than any design for the afterlife."

That's not true. The countries and individuals with the most "ownership" are the ones who seem to give the most. Both in terms of money, resources and time. And how many dotcom gizillionaires actually go about devoting time and money to their worthy causes? I think there are quite a bit. Yes, I know there are many who blow the money, but so what? By lifting all boats, we'll all be in better shape.
When people own things, they tend to take care of them. Bush's ownership ideas are good for the country. Heck, we'll increase our distance over Europe; they may still stick to a welfare mode.

It should be painfully obvious to just about everyone that an ownership society is better for people than a government based welfare mentality.
(So who loses with an ownership mentality? Democrats. They rely on scaring people by providing "programs" that make people dependent on them.)

So, I think the owenership society will spark new giving.

The comments to this entry are closed.