Today’s paper has an article about how the United States culture has strayed from the original intent of the founding fathers. In particular the author was taking umbrage with the interpretation of the establishment clause of the United States Constitution. Many so-called conservative Christians are quick to point out that God is mentioned frequently by the founding fathers and that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian tradition. They use these arguments to justify their extreme positions which they very much like impose on the rest of us. Their fundamentalist doctrine trumps all logic and reason and there is no room for a moderate interpretation of not only the Christian Gospel but also intolerance for other religions in general. These folks seem to think we’d be a more blessed republic if we had the Ten Commandments posted in courthouses, school rooms and elsewhere. They want to use public funds to support their brand of religion.
A person’s faith or lack of it is a very private matter. The government has no business in religion. When the government gets involved in religion it’s the state religion. Prophetic discourse gets replaced by pathetic discourse.
Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion –- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.–Mark Twain
There is ample evidence from the history books that Jefferson, Washington, Franklin and most of the rest believed in God, but there is also ample evidence that they believed differently from each other and in the light of their times. Jefferson re-wrote the New Testament and removed all the miracles. He believed that Jesus was on the same plane with Socrates and Plato. Thomas Jefferson would not be welcomed in today’s conservative Christian circles. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were also slave owners. Colonists and later American citizens literally stole their property from it’s rightful owners the Native American inhabitants of what is now the United States. Numerous Indian wars were fought with native peoples because we were coveting our neighbor’s property. Our current foray in Iraq is not based on any serious religious conviction. Where is war, retribution and killing mentioned in the Gospel? Jesus was not a soldier nor was he a zealot.
We ought to stick with the non-establishment of religion as one of our goals in the republic. There is ample evidence both in our history and the history of the world that fanaticism breeds violence.
Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are
determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us learn to look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for.–Thich Nhat Hanh