The Good Old Days

Reading about the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to lead the invocation at his inauguration, I am struck once again and solidified in my opinion that the United States has an urgent need to address the place of religion in politics. I am quite aware that I am in a minority here in my beliefs…actually more of a minority than I had originally known. A recent study done by the University of Minnesota showed that atheists are perhaps the least trusted or approved of group in the United States. They share a lower standing amongst the majority opinion than Muslims, African-Americans, and homosexuals. I guess that revolution of cultural tolerance hasn’t quite gone far enough. Now, I’m not in the business of telling people what to believe…I have no interest in converting people but I do have an interest in the sanctity of the grand ideals the country was founded on. The text books often cite stories of the pilgrims and their escape from religious intolerance which is all well and good but more important are the people who came those many years later to found a country with a government free of religion. I know the religious right will often claim that our constitution and our founding fathers were a religious bunch who sought to establish a free Christian nation where everyone could practice their faith. That might have been a consequence of their politics but the point originally was to not so much free the people from religious persecution as it was to free the government of religious influence. Read that first amendment again…the same one that protects my rights to rant here also prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another or over non-religion and this purpose has been specifically upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. Furthermore, our founding fathers who put in place the most brilliant framework for a country in the history of the world were most likely deists if not outright atheists. Why then, almost 250 years later, are we returning to a state where religion has such sway. A place where the only acceptable form of intolerance is that towards non-believers. I’m going to avoid the temptation to list the ills of religious belief and religious intolerance in a society because any cursory inspection of history and role of religion in it will back up my requests for cautioned skepticism. I think that the Obama administration should think carefully about their integration of religion into the Whitehouse. We are leaving behind 8 years of an administration that in my mind has had two great foibles beyond the scope of reason. The first, of course, is sending 3000 young men and women to their deaths in a far off country with an at best nebulous goal in mind and the second is that outrageous integration of religious doctrine into the policy making machinations of the world’s most powerful government. Believe what you want to believe but in the new year a healthy amount of skepticism and a return to the good old days of the founding fathers would do us well. Patrick OUT!!!

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