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.

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Willow Bailey
20624
Points
Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 06:11 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 - 06:37 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.

Willow Bailey
20624
Points
Willow Bailey 08/05/12 - 07:15 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
28443
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 07:37 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 - 07:56 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
1699
Points
DMPerryJr 08/05/12 - 08:03 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
28443
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 08:13 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
28443
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 08:18 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
1699
Points
DMPerryJr 08/05/12 - 08:22 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 - 08:48 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
243676
Points
KSL 08/05/12 - 09:11 pm
1
1
Threaten? I saw no threat.

Threaten? I saw no threat.

Gage Creed
28443
Points
Gage Creed 08/05/12 - 09:33 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 - 09:53 pm
0
1
Try to keep up, KSL.
Unpublished

Try to keep up KSL.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/05/12 - 09:56 pm
1
1
Ok, Gage
Unpublished

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

KSL
243676
Points
KSL 08/05/12 - 10:36 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
22493
Points
InChristLove 08/05/12 - 10:48 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 - 11:24 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
1699
Points
DMPerryJr 08/05/12 - 11:27 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 - 11:28 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
22493
Points
InChristLove 08/06/12 - 06:12 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
22493
Points
InChristLove 08/06/12 - 06:30 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.

DMPerryJr
1699
Points
DMPerryJr 08/06/12 - 10:04 am
0
0
ICL

My post about the dinosaurs was just for fun.I personally don't think our world to be a mere few thousand years old and I do not think mankind and the dinosaurs coexisted during Biblical times. And I guess I made the mistake of not realizing that some of my brothers and sisters really do believe such things. So your post just struck my funny bone.

I'm not here to scorn my fellow Christians. As long as you are against abortion, I don't care if you think that Moses rode into battle on the back of a brontosaurus. Taking a stand against the murder of innocent children is what matters to me.

If you were offended, please accept my sincerest apologies.

And God bless you too and have a great week. I'll be in the Bakken oil field next week, doing what I can to facilitate the melting of the polar ice caps, so I have a busy week ahead of me. I intend to have a great fracking time. :P

KasparHauser
404
Points
KasparHauser 08/08/12 - 12:30 pm
1
0
SRS Policy vs. Reality
Unpublished

I'm sure the management at SRS says no overt religion on site, besides the tax wasting Day of Prayer celebration, but that still didn't (and, doesn't) stop just about every BBQ 'celebration' meal being preceded by an obviously Christian prayer, regardless of the very diverse and non-Christian makeup of the audience.

That includes area management who have started seminars with unseemly declarations of the efficacy of their one, true Christian triple-header gods.

That's the Reality, vs. the Christian apologetics...

aveteran
136
Points
aveteran 08/08/12 - 01:48 pm
2
0
Dick

I don't see how you can even suggest anyone "disagree without being disagreeable" after the hateful lies you just spewed against atheists and the utter contempt you have for the facts of American history. Where in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or any other code of law is there any specific reference to christianity or the bible being the basis for those laws?

aveteran
136
Points
aveteran 08/08/12 - 02:00 pm
2
0
ICL

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

Science might not but my God does."

Your god has no place in secular law. If YOU want to live by your god's rules (even though he exterminated or ordered the extermination of multitudes of children in the bible), then you have that right to do so. But you do NOT have the right to demand your religious values bind everyone else.

Nomaninthesky
351
Points
Nomaninthesky 08/11/12 - 10:06 am
0
0
Evolution is working as per ICL

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.

ICL is saying she believes in evolution. If animals can evolve why can't man evolve. If man didn't evolve then how do you explain the fossil evidence of mans evolution. If you say god put the fossils there to fool us on which day of creation did he place these fossils in the earth and why would god want to fool us? Back to the evolution part you are saying that all of these kinds of animals have evolved in the 3500 yrs since noahs flood. There is no way you can scientifically prove this story or even make it sound good.

Again, I am not taking on the Army by myself, but I can state for sure they are not "volunteers" without consequences if they didn't "volunteer."

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