The Myth Of The Secular Nation State

When one is young one often believes that wisdom falls as a gentle rain to nourish the mind and leave its pubbles for the ignorant to splash about, often absorbing some drops of it through their boots.  When one become very much older one begins to see the vast ocean of ignorance on which wisdom swims while we cling to it for fear of drowning.  We learn as much wisdom through experience as we do through books.  The young have much catching up to do.  So I was reading the post of a young man on whether a secular nation can ever exist.  After a great deal of hand wringing, we finally find his thesis, that the only way one can have a secular nation is to diminish religion to the point of it being inconsequential.   Such an assertion relies on very flawed logic.  But I would believe that his error is in a lack of any affiliation with a religious belief system.  And there is that ignorance of what exactly constitutes a secular nation.  Thus he believes that with any religion being marginalized into near non existence, a nation’s politicians can act for their constituents without influence exerted by religion.  Well, our puddle grows into a sea and is in danger of becoming a vast ocean.  It’s a good thing he’s still a young man, such realization would kill his spirit.  We forget that ignorance is often the best protection against harsh reality, it gives us time to prepare for the death of our innocence.

First, it might do well to give a cursory examination of a religious state, of which there are a few variations on that theme.  A religious state is that which has a formal state supported and state operated religion.  Great Britain is an example with its state supported Anglican Church and bishops appointed by the prime minister.  Other than that, the state doesn’t interfere with the religious doctrine, the queen has better things to do such as discuss the lineages of her thoroughbred horses.  On the other hand we may find a country where Islam is the state religion and the religion runs the state, making policy according to religious doctrine.  Of course we should bring our thinking into the twentieth or twenty first century by including political doctrine as a form of religion.  Why so?  Well, Marx was convince that only when the people, that proletariat  could acquire the “Spirit of communism” that the state sponsored dictatorship could be abolished and the people would govern themselves accordingly.  Didn’t I read that in Milton somewhere?  So what the hell is the difference, both are belief systems.  The various forms of socialisms exact the same beliefs.  Indeed, when one compares political doctrine to religious doctrine one sees very little difference since both are predicated on the right set of beliefs.  As far as taxation goes, political parties exact an indirect tax upon the citizens of their nations.  If you don’t believe that then ask where do unions get their political donation funds?  What about sports team owners who get the city to fund their “private” stadiums paid for by city bonds repaid by tax money?  All the business tax exemptions, the no bid contracts, and so much more.

So the young man rails at the fact that some christian groups decry abortion and homosexual marriage.  Why shouldn’t they?  Is it only those who belong to a religious group that complain about such practices?  There seems to be an idea advanced by those who may be considered progressive liberals that religious individual should never vote their faith.  thus a practicing christian should never vote against any form of abortion or gay marriage.  This is the practice of a double standard by such “forward thinking” individuals.  I think we need to distinguish between those who generally refer to themselves and members of a religion or political movement, or quasi spiritual group or special interest social group and those who are full blown practitioners of their faith in whatever group they claim to belong.  Many of us sort of believe in god and many of us sort of don’t believe in god.  Hence our motives for voting or supporting some legislation may be entirely secular, that is, non religious.  The reason why this country chose to exclude any religious group from formal recognition by the various government is that our experiences with it were a bit negative.  Sometimes we forget the the Boston was the center of official state religion prior to the War for Independence.  Taxes were levied and attendance compulsory in the seventeenth century.  The fact that in Europe either the catholic church or a protestant church were the official and state supported religions (sixteenth century Switzerland with its Presbyterian state government was just as bad a sixteenth century Spain with its Catholic state government.) hit home to the diverse colonies.  Maryland was established as an English colony for the safe haven of English catholics.  Pennsylvania gave religious freedom to all.  Massachusetts permitted only the puritan or congregational form of worship.  The Scots and northern Irish brought their form of the Presbyterian church with them to the many states along the eastern seaboard.  What else was there to do but declare no state supported religion?  It was a move not so much born out of belief that a state supported religion was bad but that it would be impossible to implement since there were competing interests.  Better to prohibit the establishment than let the various colonies fight over which shall be supported.  It was a pragmatic decision that offended no one.  Besides, such an article in the constitution did not prohibit any form of belief, not that it would have mattered to the true believers.

So, back to voting one’s beliefs.  Note that the prohibition against the establishment of a state supported religion did not forbid voting one’s beliefs.  This progressive left has chosen to ignore this important point.  Democracy is littery mob rule.  The majority rules, it winds, and if that majority is christian, then it wins.  If that majority is pro labor union then that majority wins.  We use the constitution as a check on these interest groups.  Quite frankly we should have an amendment that does not allow any government to make any law regarding any citizen’s right to make healthcare decisions.  That was the whole point of Roe vs Wade, the various governments should not intrude themselves between patient and doctor.  It did not say that abortion was a right, it said that the decision was between the woman and her physician, where it belongs, not in a court of law.  For myself, I am not supportive of indiscriminate abortion on demand.  That fetus is not just a lump of tissue as Chelsea Clinton claims.  On the other hand I think she is a lump of tissue without life form or value.  No, I do not agree that any man should be recognized to have any interest in the abortion decision.  He ought to be glad he doesn’t have to marry the worm or pay child support.  Other than that, he has no right to say anything about it.  Nor should we be trying to legislate public and private morals.  But all this doesn’t mean anything.  If a religious group can muster out the vote to pass legislation to support their beliefs and push them on to the rest of us, that that is what happens and we are left to let the courts adjudicate the issue.  You see, I have no right to prevent anyone from voting their conscious.  I do have a duty to see that the tyranny of their actions are stopped short of implementation.  This applies as much to those liberal progressives who believe they know what is best for us and want to force us to think, act, and belief in that same manner.  A secular nation state does not prohibit its citizens from voting their interests, it prohibits them from implementing that legislation that would be harmful to other members of the public.  This is what that young man missed.  If American was one hundred percent one christian sect, imposing its will upon the country would still be prohibited.  Sometimes it takes awhile for law to catch up to the existence of the modern state.  In 1789 Row vs Wade was law, it just took almost 200 years to realize it.

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