Freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion

One of my favorite lines from legendary journalist H.L. Mencken is his definition of puritanism – “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

That fear might be the driving force behind the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The FFRF is a group out of Wisconsin that pesters government agencies to maintain a separation of church and state. Its weapon of choice appears to be frivolous litigation.

Many Augustans first got wind of the FFRF last month when The Chronicle reported how the group started poking around into how Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s monthly prayer breakfasts are put together and paid for. The breakfasts have been held since 2005, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a regular local event that so consistently ameliorates racial healing in our community.

But to hear the FFRF fret about it, you’d think the mayor was grabbing people in headlocks and forcing them to pray – all on the taxpayer’s dime. Turns out, though, that the breakfast’s food is donated, and the only city expenditure is the time spent sending emails to the folks invited to participate.

THE FFRF also sent a letter to Fort Gordon. Why? Well, the fort’s Regimental Noncommissioned Officers Academy lets participants in its Advanced Leader Course perform community service projects, which is a great idea.

But apparently someone – presumably one of the FFRF’s 369 Georgia members – recently spotted soldiers sprucing up the property outside Catholic Social Services, and jumped to the conclusion that Fort Gordon orders soldiers to work for religious charities.

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but I will anyway – Fort Gordon does not order soldiers to work for religious charities. According to fort Public Affairs Officer J.C. Mathews, CSS is on the academy’s list of local organizations that request help from Fort Gordon soldiers. Since CSS is a private organization, soldiers can and do offer assistance voluntarily.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... .” The Founding Fathers thought that was so important that they made it the very first phrase of the Constitution’s First Amendment.

THE FFRF keeps hammering away about how the government should not establish a religion. I don’t think the government should, either.

But the FFRF seems to be real fuzzy on the “free exercise” part.

Are either the prayer breakfasts or the leader course’s volunteer program really establishing a religion? If so, they’re doing miserable jobs of it. You want some pointers on governmental establishment of a religion? Take notes from Iran or Saudi Arabia. (Just don’t let then catch you – you might get beaten or imprisoned.)

Meanwhile, in America, Congress isn’t ordering you or me how to worship, and everyone – even mayors and soldiers – has the freedom to publicly express aspects of their faith.

I’m sure the people over at the FFRF get a kick out of quoting Thomas Jefferson, since he’s probably America’s most famous deist. Here’s a quote I like, from 1782: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

See? Even he didn’t care who you prayed to, or if you prayed at all. But the FFRF sure does – and it sure seems to get its members steamed.

Which brings us back to the Mencken quote.

For all the FFRF’s bluster over the separation of church and state, its members consistently forget – or choose to ignore – one key fact: Religion, whether the FFRF likes it or not, makes people very happy.

There’s a ton of research to back that up, but in the interest of space I’ll mention just two of my favorite examples:

• A 2010 study by the University of Toronto-Scarborough found that believers who thought about God suffer less from the stress and anxiety associated with making mistakes.

When nonbelievers think about God under the same circumstances – well, you get the idea. They get more stressed.

• Why do people of faith seem happier? Research in the American Sociological Review cites the social joys from participating in regular worship. Closer human ties boost your satisfaction.

What makes FFRF members happy? Patting one another on the back congratulating themselves on being nonreligious, I suppose.

And you know what, if that’s what makes you happy, that’s fine. It “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg,” as a great man once said.

But the last time I checked, religion isn’t a yoke to escape but a choice to be made freely. The Constitution guarantees us a freedom of religion, not a freedom from it.

And a mayor’s monthly breakfast or a soldier doing yard work simply doesn’t establish a religion. The slightest action by a good person of faith doesn’t equate to full-throttle proselytizing.

Will the Freedom from Religion Foundation ever realize all that?

God only knows.

Comments (52) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
CobaltGeorge
176875
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/05/12 - 03:52 pm
3
3
The Ten Commandments

are the basic rules and belief's of a good Christian. They also have a lot to do with the human laws that are made. To an atheists, they just would like to get rid of the 10 commandments and live a free life and do what ever they want, Right?

JonathanStevenDick
8
Points
JonathanStevenDick 08/05/12 - 04:09 pm
4
2
Atheism is a religion just as much as Christianity

@effete elitist liberal & @nanowerx

I would like to clarify a few things...

First...
Religion is "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons"... just because there is no easily identifiable establishment or organization defining the atheist "religion" does not make it any less of a religion. There are many religions believing in God that fall under the same category.

Second...
The first ammendment to the constitution states:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

@nanowerx... you said:
"...our forefathers wanted to ensure that so this country was not run by a church"

nanowerx... you are absolutely correct on this point, but you also stated..

"Remember, this country was not founded on the Christian religion, or any religion..."

On this point you are absolutely false. This country was NOT founded on any specific "establishment" of the Christian religion, but it WAS founded on Christian the basis of Christian morality, the Christian concept of the sacred nature of individual liberty, and the Christian value of the sanctity of life. These principles... which the founding fathers stated in the Declaration of Independence are "...endowed by their Creator" permeate the very substance of our structure of government and legal code.

The constitution does not say "Congress shall make no law respecting actions defined by values espoused by an establishment of religion." We have many such laws, such as making it a crime to kill or steal, that are based upon values with origins in religion. These are not currently contested... but may be at one point if this current line of thinking is extended to the future.

Separation of church and state does not mean separation of morality and state. The founding fathers did not intend the functioning of government to be completely devoid of moral considerations or for speech/input/opinions/votes of religious origin to be prohibited in the public sphere. To do so would be to make atheism the state religion and curtail my freedom of speech.

That is exactly what this new agressive breed of atheism is attempting to do.

@effete elitist liberal... you said:
"give at least one good example of how a law based on non-Christian moral values would not only allow people holding those views to the free exercise of them, but also WOULD PREVENT YOU FROM EXERCISING YOURS! CAN YOU GIVE US ONE???"

First of all... atheism... by definition is devoid of "moral values". If there is no God, then there is no right or wrong other than that demanded by any given individually localized pragmatic predicament.

My "moral values" are defined by God. Atheism's are defined by selfisness and individual practical utility. Including the selfish desire to not be "bothered" by the mention of any morality based upon absolute verity that would lead to potential feelings of guilt in an atheist whose heart is pricked by the truth.

An example of the types of laws that would prevent the free excersise of my religion and curtail my freedom of speech which are based on this atheist religious masxim of "freedom from absolute morality" can be found in the recent events with Chic-fil-A. Certain Mayors would have effectively executed "laws" that limited individuals ability to open a business establishment in their city because they expressed opinions with religious origins that defined actions of other individuals as "morally" wrong.

Are we to say that public figures cannot express religious opinions or that private individuals cannot express religious opinions publicly or that religious figures cannot hold public office?

The constitution also states... "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

This also includes a test to prove any "lack" of religion or religious influence on public policy.

We cannot reject any candidate for public office because of religious beliefs any more that we can reject any proposed law for religious origins or for similarity to moral values espoused by a certain religion. To do so we would have to reject many of our current laws, reject anyone for public office that is not an atheist, and make atheism the defacto "religious test" for public office.

If this country continues on it's current course, and the atheist religion succeeds in erasing all vestiges of religion and morality from the administration of our public good, it will lead to the public persecution of religious inidviduals and limit the liberty of anyone not conforming to the new state "religion"... Atheism.

912Stephen
4
Points
912Stephen 08/05/12 - 04:14 pm
2
4
Thank You, FFRF!

I'm so grateful for organizations such as the FFRF. By the way, Mr. Hotchkiss, I'm one of those 369 proud Georgia members. I also like the Jefferson quote, but I shudder to think how far religious extremists might go if not for the work of dedicated groups such as FFRF. We have a National Day of Christian Prayer, so it would seem religion in America is safe and sound. By the way, as far as religious people being happier, you know what they say - ignorance is bliss.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 04:38 pm
3
4
Just because you do not

Just because you do not believe in God does not change His reality. The day will come when Every knee will bow and All will call on the name of God. To many He will say, "depart from me, for I never knew you."

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 04:47 pm
3
3
Grouse, I see from your

Grouse, I see from your comment where you stated that you believe prayer to be ineffective that you interpret God through life 's circumstances rather than life circumstances through God.

In your way there is no hope, joy or victory. In the other, the opposite is
true. I would be sick if I thought my hope was in the government, others or self.

effete elitist liberal
3191
Points
effete elitist liberal 08/05/12 - 04:54 pm
4
4
JSDick and Willow

The assertion which you both make is that without a Bible-based moral system, "anything goes." I have neither the time, the inclination, nor frankly the patience to explain why your conclusion is not only profoundly wrong, but insulting as well. Somehow I and millions of others in the U.S. and around the world manage to live admirably moral lives without the help of the Bible or any other holy text. Surely you know that that is true. I hope you will remember us the next time you think you and your fellow Christians are the only ones living "right."

TheBigBonk
116
Points
TheBigBonk 08/05/12 - 05:00 pm
1
0
Mr. Effete
Unpublished

All these arguments, particularly "no morals without god" have been rebutted so many times it's not funny. Best to ignore them and move on.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 05:11 pm
1
2
EEL, There are many things

EEL, There are many things that I admire about you and my words are not meant to insult you. I only ask you to recognize where morals originate. They were not our ideas. Of course you can choose to lead a lawful life; even a kind or honorable and generous one and even a Religious life a part from God.

rakastettu
24
Points
rakastettu 08/05/12 - 05:37 pm
4
3
Well written but ignorant

Hotchkiss has a point that the FFRF can be frivolous in its “war” on religion in America—and by “religion,” of course, he means Christianity. It's true that not every battle needs to be fought, and if we keep trying to tear down every cross and block every graduation prayer we'll only end up turning the public against us, in addition to becoming a strident and shrill voice instead of one standing for freedom and rationality.

People are free to exercise their beliefs, however ridiculous, so long as they do so in the proper place and not on the taxpayer's dime. However, it's clear from this article that he does not understand the difference between public and private spaces, or what government establishment of religion looks like. It’s also clear that he sees no problem with Christianity being de facto moral authority in America, or with proselytizing of one particular faith being sanctioned by the government.

What they and Hotchkiss are lobbying for is the freedom of Christianity to act with impunity, to the exclusion of every other system of belief. They don’t want freedom for Islam, Judaism or Buddhism (because those godless heathens need to repent and accept Jesus as their Lord and savior). You can believe whatever you want—so long as you believe the way that they do.

effete elitist liberal
3191
Points
effete elitist liberal 08/05/12 - 05:44 pm
1
3
many things

Willow, you ask that I consider "where morals originate." Have spend many years doing just that. You assume the only source is exterior to you and outside human experience. I do not. As Hamlet said to Horatio,"There are many more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy...." I say to you, Willow, when it comes to moral beliefs, there are many more sources of morality "in heaven and earth" than are dreamt of in your Christian religion.

effete elitist liberal
3191
Points
effete elitist liberal 08/05/12 - 05:47 pm
0
4
rakastettu

Oh yeh! I could not agree more with your post.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 06:15 pm
1
1
eel, even though we disagree

eel, even though we disagree on many things, you are always respectful to me. I appreciate that in you.

Gage Creed
19450
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 06:37 pm
2
3
Be careful rakasettu...that's

Be careful rakasettu...that's an awfully lofty perch you are setting yourself on...and with your nose in the air like that, it would be easy to make a misstep.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/05/12 - 06:56 pm
3
1
Lol, gage creed
Unpublished

It's funny as all get out when someone who takes a position congruent with the founding principles of this country is accused of assuming a "lofty perch."

DMPerryJr
1698
Points
DMPerryJr 08/05/12 - 07:03 pm
1
0
I'm A Christian

But I HAVE always wondered how in the world Noah got all those dinosaurs on that boat.

Gage Creed
19450
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 07:13 pm
2
2
No Palmetto....it's sad when

No Palmetto....it's sad when someone takes an elitist position of trying to control others thoughts and beliefs. Especially when FFRF is basically a money making endeavor for the husband and wife that run this “foundation.”

Gage Creed
19450
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 07:18 pm
3
1
Lofty perch....you know, when

Lofty perch....you know, when you are a head and shoulders above everyone else (cough) and you walk along with your nose in the air… there is a high probability you will find yourself at the feet of those people for which you hold so much disdain.

DMPerryJr
1698
Points
DMPerryJr 08/05/12 - 07:22 pm
4
1
I was an atheist

or at least an agnostic, for over 25 years. I never felt like I needed protection from religion during that time.

I do know one thing though: I got tired of hanging around atheists. All they ever wanted to talk about was religion. Atheists are a bunch of scripture quoting religious nuts.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/05/12 - 07:48 pm
2
0
Gage Creed
Unpublished

Gage Creed, I know what a lofty perch is...and you were accusing rakastettu of being on one, not the FFRF. You want to try again to explain why you thought it necessary to chastise him/her. Or more specifically, threaten him/her (I suppose with the wrath of god..)?

KSL
144616
Points
KSL 08/05/12 - 08:11 pm
1
1
Threaten? I saw no threat.

Threaten? I saw no threat.

Gage Creed
19450
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 08:33 pm
0
2
To quote rakatettu..."Well

To quote rakatettu..."Well written but ignorant".... "People are free to exercise their beliefs, however ridiculous"....these quotes sound rather elitist to me.
I feel no need to explain anything to one as tolerant and understanding as you palmetto, nor do I have no need to or desire "threaten"rakasettu.
Just contemplate this; life has a way of humbling the self-righteous.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/05/12 - 08:53 pm
0
1
Try to keep up, KSL.
Unpublished

Try to keep up KSL.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/05/12 - 08:56 pm
1
1
Ok, Gage
Unpublished

Ok, Gage, maybe the word "ignorant" was a bit harsh. Unworldly would have been better.

KSL
144616
Points
KSL 08/05/12 - 09:36 pm
0
0
Pal, I would have to slow

Pal, I would have to slow down to keep up with you. If you are going to give out subtle insults, prepare to receive them.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 08/05/12 - 09:48 pm
0
1
DMPerryJr....not sure if your

DMPerryJr....not sure if your question concerning Noah and dinosaurs was with sincerity or in jest but in case it was sincere, although there were about 668 names of dinosaurs, there were only about 55 different "KINDS" of dinosaurs. Not all were huge and most likely those on the Ark were "teenagers" or young adults.

The point is Noah was instructed to bring "kinds" of animals, not a set of each type of animal. Zebras, donkeys and horses were a KIND "meaning genera", such as dogs, wolves, and coyotes are a KIND of canine...so hundred of different types of canines were not necessary, just as hundred of different types of dinosaurs.

JonathanStevenDick
8
Points
JonathanStevenDick 08/05/12 - 10:24 pm
0
0
We must protect each other's liberties

@effete elitist liberal

I'm sure there are some professed atheists living more "right" than many professed Christians.

We just all need to learn to "disagree without being disagreeable" and remember that it is just as important to preserve the liberties of those you disagree with than those that you do. I would fight just as hard for an Atheist's right to not have to support a particular establishment of religion than for a Christian's right not to support the Atheist establishment. We must all work to protect each other's liberties... regardless of race, creed, or religion.

DMPerryJr
1698
Points
DMPerryJr 08/05/12 - 10:27 pm
0
0
InChristLove

You just pulled off the greatest reverse troll job that I have ever seen! I have nothing left to say on this matter! ROFL!

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 08/05/12 - 10:28 pm
2
0
Moral code not exclusive

Morals are not exclusively tied to one religion, or even all for that matter. All religions are built upon a set of standard principals to live by. While religions may differ in their view points about life, death and everything in-between, to each believer, their guiding principals are moral. Even those with no religious preference can believe in human decency and common sense. A person can learn to not steal, hit,, hurt etc from their parents, community, social norms etc. Babies aren't inherently born evil requiring a strict religious code to prevent sinister acts. Truth be told, if you look closely and with an open mind (key) at all religions, there are more commonalities then differences. Even an Agnostic, who has no proof of God's existence or an Atheist, who is certain he doesn't exist, believes people must behave within the social norms of society. On the subject of the actual Mayor's breakfast, I see no issue with it provided no one was required to attend or required to participate in prayer if they didn't wish to participate. The issue shouldn't be about religion but rather respect. We should all respect each others right to worship whomever, whatever or however desirable. That's what I choose to believe the Constitution intended. If the Constitution wanted to legislate the Bible, Torah, Koran, Thripitaka, etc... the founding fathers would have done so but instead they guaranteed us this freedom of choice and provided that the government should never interfere legislatively to abridge this freedom.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 08/06/12 - 05:12 am
0
2
eel: "Your claim that the

eel: "Your claim that the abortion issue is a rights issue, not a religious one, is either disingenuous or unexamined"

No in fact eel, I think it can be both.

eel: "Science provides no answers to when a "right-to-life" becomes vested"

Science might not but my God does.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 08/06/12 - 05:30 am
1
1
DMPerry, not sure what you

DMPerry, not sure what you mean by pulling off greatest reverse troll job. Can't decide if I achieve something worthwhile or if this comment is an insult.

Comments on here can fly in multiple directions and I thought I was helping by answering someone's question. If I have not followed someone's insulting line of thinking, then I suppose I only look like a fool. Either way, I hope you enjoyed it and have a blessed day.

Back to Top
loading...
Search Augusta jobs