Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Freedom of Religion

A bit of background on me right now: I'm trying to buy gifts for my family and friends, because I love buying and giving gifts, I'm trying to keep up with the HR 550 blogswarm, because verified voting is a very important issue to me, and I'm listening, on CD, to Ron Silver reading me "The Plot Against America".

Imagine, if you will, a story about Lindbergh becoming president instead of FDR winning a third term, and holy cow is it a scary story for a Jew. Yikes. It really rams home how people don't want to believe that bad things are happening. They don't want to believe it to the level that they do not stop the bad things. I was reminded forcefully of the same feeling when reading a post at Brilliant at Breakfast about Christopher Hitchens on Joe Scarborough's show. Yes, that's a lot of links.
HITCHENS: This guy from Lynchburg defines progress as teaching junk science to our children, and leaving us the mockery of the world by pretending that we did not evolve.
Scarborough immediately tries to stop this topic because
"We are not going to debate intelligent-we are not going to debate intelligent design right here, but, Christopher..."
It felt, suddenly, exactly like the feelings I get when listening to the story. People who want to stop the teaching of evolution in the classroom in favor of "intelligent design" are doing a bad thing. Religion is religion, and science is science, and no one is saying that some god figure didn't make up the rules that make science science, we're just saying that the rules exist, and that teaching them actually equips children to grow up in an informed manner. It lets them grow up prepared to understand how things work, and solve problems, and exist without fear of simple things because they're unknown. Teaching evolution in a science classroom teaches more than just the idea that men used to be apes, it teaches natural progression, it teaches how larger, more complex things can grow from smaller, simpler things. It teaches them to think and learn and analyze for themselves. If people want to teach their young that a deity is the reason for the rules, fine. They're welcome to do that in the house of worship of their choice. The public schools aren't there for that, they're just there to talk about what those rules actually are.

This brings me back to Scarborough Country. Hitchens said this:
HITCHENS: ... as in Washington, D.C., there are large numbers of public buildings, lavishly financed, usually, in fact, invariably, tax exempt, sometimes even government subsidized by the-—what do we call it, faith-based program.

They are called churches. People can go there if they want to have religious ceremony. They can put up hoardings on their land which say it's Jesus' birthday or Christ has risen, if it's Easter, anything like that. You can't stop them. They do it all the time, and they are very welcome.
And that's true, they are very welcome to do that.
When I say that I don't want religious items on public ground -– and this is a position that I've only come to occupy fairly recently - it's not because I'm anti religion, it's simply because I feel that our government should remain staunchly secular. I wish for public offices to deal with only the cut and dried matters of taxes, and zoning, and civil documents and the like. Should people be allowed to decorate public offices? Sure. No one likes a depressing work atmosphere. Can'’t it be secular decoration, though? Can'’t they just put up some pretty snowflake lights and be happy with that?

Our founding fathers were trying to set up a country where free, white land-owning men could worship in any way they darn well pleased. I lift another link from Jill:
It was during Adam's [sic] administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

Does this make me "anti-Christmas"? No, it does not. I am not a Christian. That means that I don't have any particular religious significance attached to the holiday. I love all the secular and updated-pagan trappings that go with it, though. I'm crazy for evergreens, love candles in windows, and I think that getting to kiss someone because they're standing under a specific branch with some berries on it is a fun idea. I like to wear green or red in fancy, warm fabrics, and don't even get me started on twinkly lights or silvery decorations! But I'm still not a Christian, and I still don't actually celebrate Christmas. And neither do Hindus, or Buddhists, or Muslims, or any other non-Christians. And those of us who practice these religions that are U.S citizens, well, we're not Christians, but we are indeed Americans. Sure Christians are the majority, but they'’re not the monopoly.

If someone, as an American, decides that they will only say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", they're not trying to exclude anybody from celebrating anything. They are merely trying to include everyone in a wish for a happy season that doesn't make any assumptions about their habits of worship. Here in the U.S we're free to worship, and to celebrate as we choose. That's not a bad thing. Being restricted to do so at non-government locations is not a sign of oppression; it's a sign of freedom.

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