Monday, December 20, 2004

Separation of Church andc Logic...
Lots of sturm und drang this year about Nativity scenes and menorrahs, and I'll be damned if I know just what drives people to make such a stink over them.

Not only are some Americans (and you know who you are!) up in arms over religious displays, but the phenomena is spreading: in Italy, the Pope is decrying the destruction of Western Culture while Italian schoolchildren sing Christmas songs that don't even have the words "Christ" or "Jesus" in them anymore. They replace the offensive words with anything that rhymes, but which makes no sense in context.

In other parts of Europe, Christ has been dead for so long, it's doubtful that a second resurrection on television accompanied by a cash gift to every citizen on the continent will bring back anything resembling belief. Or maybe just tolerance.

And perhaps that's the point of this little screed. It's about tolerance, or the lack of it. We all make gargantuan efforts in or daily lives to be "inclusive", to be "fair", to be "inoffensive". I submit that when you try to do these things you very often wind up being uninclusive, unfair and very offensive. The reason being that once you have made an effort to bend to the will of a single dissenter, that dissenter makes it his or her life's work to ensuring you bend until you snap. Failure to continue bending will get you scorn, it will tar you witht he epithet of "hater" and eventually, gets you sued somewhere. The benders have become captive to the will of the bend-ees and simply for the sake of appearances.

Some will tell you that it's only right that we take into account the religious sensibilities of others who may not believe the same things we do. Granted, that's a valid point. By why is it that while I'm being religiously sensitive, the Muslim, the Jew, the Atheist, the Buddhist down the block, are not expected to return the courtesy? I single these religions out as an example, not to imply that I have an issue with them (well, except for Islam).

The argument is always framed as being one of tolerance for others. However, it's never about tolerance. It's about the imposition of personal tastes and group will upon a majority, in such a way that could never be done by the normal machinations of society (i.e. by law or government process), but by emotion. We've seen such manipulation of emotions in various aspects of American life before: the fight for Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, the War on Poverty, the Great Society and the New Deal. We've seen the Communists and Nazis manipulate fear, envy and ignorance for the sake of political power. In this day and age we see other fringes of society do the same thing. The only difference is now they're trading on embarrasment. Let's face it: in today's society it's embarrassing to be singled out as a racist, sexist or anti-Jew or any host of other politically correct no-nos. This is only right, but it's taken to extremes by a whole class of people whose only reason for living is to be offended. That's the real danger here; the permanently panty-bunched.
The argument is almost always couched in constitutional or legal terms, which is supposed to mask the true intent of the fly in the ointment, as if the flimsy smokescreen of "protecting everyone's rights" is supposed to cover the stench. The First Amendment is probably the most-frequently-abused section of the Constitution. That old anti-establishment clause is perverted way beyond it's meaning, or intent, to allow all sorts of stupid things to enter into the American landscape. When the first Congress wrote the words "Congress shall enact no law" they should have stopped right there. But in this case, a little application of common sense would get the very people who these sorts of things are aimed at a little angry, and thus, energized to defend their rights aganist those who see them rather as "anti-rights". The purpose of the Anti-Establishment clause was not to ban religion from public life, but rather to prevent one religion being set up as a prerequiste for the enjoyment of other rights in our society. It's a direct result of the formation of the Church of England under Henry VIII. In Henry's time, if you did not follow the King's Version of the religion, the state religion, you were hunted down, hounded, called a traitor for your divided loyalties, and ultimately, drawn and quartered in the Tower of London. Sort of like what happens in Iran. In Olde England, the keys to the Kingdom depended on bended knee to an institution perverted by a monarch for his own selfish ends. The Founders of this country wanted to make sure there were as few obstacles as possible to the enjoyment of personal liberties. The only things they asked in return was that succeeding generations be responsible and logical. Instead, there are those amongst us who have decided that the Anti-Establisment Clause actually bans religion form the public life, which it doesn't. How one is supposed to have Freedom of Religion while having his religious beliefs attacked in public is something I have never been able to wrap my tiny mind around. It also follows, of course, that the Anti-Establishment Clause also allows you to be free from professing any religious beliefs at all, and that's fine too. That's a personal choice (on I made after 12 years of Catholic schools), but it doesn't mean you have the right to ban religion, in any form, for the sake of your sensibilities to the detriment of other people's sensibilities. That, in effect, is communism. The wonderful thing abot living in a Republic like ours is that the will of the minority is protected, it's given an equal voice. It's when that voice begins to scream in high-pitched tones, like a herd of stuck pigs, dragging things into courtrooms where they don't belong, engaging in vandalism, and running roughshod over the rights of others that it becomes a problem. This is a problem because it won't stop at religion. It almost never stops at religion. Once the "other side" succeed in subverting one freedom to better suit it's tastes, it attacks the rest, encouraged by success. Today it's the display of a privately-funded nativity scene, tomorrow it's the Pledge of Alliegance, or the right to own a gun or the ability to keep your phone calls and e-mail private. Principles must always be defended, but in this day and age, many of us would rather surrender our principles for the sake of how others perceive us. That's just plain wrong.