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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Separation of Church and State

Religion is a touchy topic for anyone to discuss.  Any topic that is engulfed with emotions and perspectives from all sides and for thousands of years will cause conflict.  In spite of what we do, we always find a way to fight or argue about something, and when such an emotional topic like religion comes up, it’s inevitable.  Anymore religion is a taboo, kids growing up are not even allowed to say god in the pledge of allegiance.  The conflict of religion or no religion is tearing our country apart.

I’m no religious expert or anything.  I’m certainly not going to discuss the origins of the bible and then compare and contrast the teachings of the Bible in relation to the Koran.  Even if I wanted to, I’m not smart enough to tackle such a feat.  My interest is to simply discuss the idea of religion in our country. 

America was founded by people that were escaping their home lands because of perpetual religious persecution.  These people just wanted to live in a place in which they could practice their religion, in the comfort of their homes without any worry of government interference.  It was a broad and strange thought at the time.  Can there be a nation that has no defined religion?  Now a days, it’s not a big deal.  Some of us go to church and live a pious life, but we wouldn’t risk our own well being or the well being of our families to achieve this.  Back then though, a pious life was the only way of life.  These people dreamed of living in a land that encouraged all inhabitants to exercise their own personal liberty, and that all people deserve basic human rights. 

We all know the rest of the story, obviously, because we still live in a country that doesn’t promote one religion over another.  I believe that this movement sparked the question, if we can exercise our own liberty and choose our religion, then can we exercise our right to more personal liberties?  Hence the founding of a country based on the idea of personal liberty and a government governed by its own citizens and not some out of touch monarch. 

After all that was risked in the quest for religious freedom, it would only make sense for our framers to promote a separation between church and state.  The goal of this is to ensure that the United States never exclusively promotes or persecutes one religion.  This is when things get a little sticky, in my opinion.  I believe the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted with a deep religious undertone.  There is no endorsement of a specific religion, but there is a subset of morals and principles that the country was founded under, that are prevalent in our most important documents.  I am by no means a deeply spiritual or religious man, but I do agree with the morals and principles that are taught in most religious texts.  There are teachings of honesty, loyalty, discretion, perseverance, basic right and wrong, patience, and love.  You could go on for days.  The purpose of religion, any religion, is to find comfort in faith, to believe in something bigger than us.  Religion keeps people grounded.  It keeps us grounded to a set of morals and principles that need to be existent in our schools and homes.  Like I’ve said earlier, I’m not a religious man but I absolutely agree with the lessons that are taught in religious texts.  I think even the smuggest of atheists would agree that our children need to understand the importance of honesty, patience, and perseverance.  And if they don’t, I would challenge them to argue the pro’s to raising a child without those morals.  Which brings me to my point, the separation of church and state is necessary to honor the ideas of our founding fathers, but it can not lead to the loss of basic morals in society. 

A society without morals is a society of anarchy, if we have nothing to keep all of us grounded then we will not move forward.  The purpose of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence is to keep us grounded to a set of ideas, and laws that make our system work.  Things have changed since 1776, last time I checked I didn’t see anything in the Constitution about cyber theft and internet hacking, but that doesn’t mean that we can throw away a document that is so important to our way of life.  The basic morals and principles that are included in our early documents are just as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago, that’s the point of it.  The same applies to the bible.  Events and people are judged and perceived in the time period in which they existed, morals and principles are timeless. 

There are obviously people that don’t agree with any religious voice, or undertone in any state related function.  These people would be categorized as secular.  They believe that the growth of our country is more important than our adherence to our most important documents.  They believe that religion has no place in the public arena and actually hinder our advancement. If that is the case, then are they saying they don’t agree with the morals that are taught by religion?  Are they saying that our morals and principles are outdated?  And if they don’t believe in the morals taught by religion, then they don’t agree with the reason why the constitution is the way that it is.  Hence people that don’t believe the constitution works anymore, they believe that a new document should be drafted to better reflect current time. 

This idea is attractive to some, people that want an unbounded growth and shift of the American way of life.  The grass is always greener on the other side type of people.  If this ever happened, it wouldn’t be the end of the world by any means.  A lot of conservatives would be upset, but eventually time would relinquish their anger.  Although, it’s not there anger or disgust that I’m worried about.  I’m worried about the consequences of the long term growth of the country under a system that doesn’t have a strong set of morals to keep us grounded.  I subscribe to a slow and steady wins the race type of thinking.  America has its problems, as do all countries, but we also have done very well with our old documents shaping the way our three branches of government operate.  Off the top of my head I can think of a few things we do well.  We promote liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and we help people that can’t help themselves at home or abroad.  These are values that define America, values that the world sees and admires us for.  These values are not coincidental, these values were taught to us by religion.  And having a society not founded on any sort of religious undertone would be suicidal to the long term development of a nation.

I’m not writing this to protest that we allow students to say God in the pledge of allegiance again.  I’m writing this because I want to see the next three hundred years of development in our society to be healthy and grounded.  I believe that the government shouldn’t promote any one religion, but we need to stop being afraid of the fact that religion has shaped our society.  I don’t believe that any religion should stand in the way of anybody’s happiness.  The great part about this country is that our choices are our choices.  No one can tell us what to do or what not to do, we have the right to express our liberty (to an extent).  All I ask is that we acknowledge the fact that our framers had our best intentions in mind when they wrote the Constitution.  The Framers were not pretentious in thinking their ideas would supersede religion.  They simply transferred the lessons from one text into another.  The abandonment of the Constitution is an abandonment of morals, principles, and religion that are so very necessary to the success of our society.  As the next generation of adults who will shape the world, we need to remember the importance of morals and how they will lead us to the long term stability and success of the country.

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