## Question about separation of church and state.

• 118
Would the following be considered a violation of the separation of church and state? If not, why? Would it be because no specific religion is being endorsed? Or perhaps because it is voluntary? I’m genuinely curious.

http://wvmetronews.com/2020/03/24/day-of-prayer-in-west-virginia-set-for-wednesday/
• 1.6k
It sure seems like a borderline case to me, for its endorsement of theism at least (in exclusion of atheism), but since it is voluntary and non-exclusive within religion at least, it seems pretty harmless to me and as an atheist myself I would look down on anyone making a stink about it just on principle.
• 118
Yeah, I’m not really trying to make some issue out of this. It just made me wonder.
• 1.6k
Oh, I didn’t think you were. I expected you would be on the opposite side of that if someone did make a stink of it.
• 5.4k
I find the whole notion of separation of church and state to be an oxymoron. If the freedom to practice religion is a fundamental right, doesn't that mean religion is still prevalent in the general populace? And, where do politicians come from? From the general populace of course. So, while a nation is protected from devolving into a theocratic nightmare, it accomplishes only half the task because I'm sure the majority of the government officials are theists, guided, as it were, in their decisions by religious doctrine. It's like imposing a ban on the meat industry but still allowing people to consume meat.
• 837
Wait, when did West Virginia learn to use the internet?
• 1.6k
It's like imposing a ban on the meat industry but still allowing people to consume meat.

That would make perfect sense to me. There’s nothing wrong with eating an animal that’s already dead. There’s only anything wrong with killing living animals. So if something were to be done about carnivory, it would make more sense to ban the killing than the eating. If as a consequence nobody’s able to eat meat anymore, so be it, but stopping meat-eating was never the point.
• 5.4k
That would make perfect sense to me. There’s nothing wrong with eating an animal that’s already dead. There’s only anything wrong with killing living animals. So if something were to be done about carnivory, it would make more sense to ban the killing than the eating. If as a consequence nobody’s able to eat meat anymore, so be it, but stopping meat-eating was never the point.

Well, what is the meat industry actually? Organizations fueled by people who're excersing their right to eat meat, isn't it? What is the church but an organization run by people exercising their right to freedom of religion, isn't it?
• 1.6k
A right to eat meat and a right to kill animals aren’t the same thing. If you can’t do the former without doing the latter, tough.

Likewise practicing your own religion personally and imposing you religion on others through the state. If you religion were to say it is a sin to not have a theocracy... then too bad for (that part of) your religion.
• 5.4k
A right to eat meat and a right to kill animals aren’t the same thing. If you can’t do the former without doing the latter, tough.

Likewise practicing your own religion personally and imposing you religion on others through the state. If you religion were to say it is a sin to not have a theocracy... then too bad for (that part of) your religion.

I'm not against religion per se; I'm against the church.

I'm not against eating meat; I just don't like the slaughterhouses.
• 9.5k
I think it transgresses the church-state boundary, as he’s an elected official and seems to be using his office in a call to prayer. The point of the secular state is to provide a framework comprising the essential services, laws, and so on, required to maintain society and the economy; within that framework persons are at liberty to practice any religion or none. But utilising the State Capital and the instruments of state for the dissemination of religious ritual (such as prayer) would seem clearly a violation of the separation principle.
• 21
• 1.5k
There is no real separation. Each house of the Congress starts each session with prayers to "Almighty God"...and there is not a politician in America who does not end remarks with "And may GOD bless America."
• 2.9k

There is a National day of prayer every year, the first Thursday of May, and the President is required by law to issue a proclamation for it. It is, in my opinion, a violation of church and state.
• 118
If the freedom to practice religion is a fundamental right, doesn't that mean religion is still prevalent in the general populace?

Yes.

So, while a nation is protected from devolving into a theocratic nightmare, it accomplishes only half the task because I'm sure the majority of the government officials are theists, guided, as it were, in their decisions by religious doctrine.

Right, but because of the separation of church and state, their decisions can’t infringe upon the rights of others, or otherwise discriminate against people who believe something other than the state approved religion.
• 118
Kind of what I thought too, but do you think the context is important at all? For example, one of the main functions of the state, and thereby the governor as leader of the state, is, as you mention, to maintain society. So what if in the middle of a pandemic society is on the verge of devolving into chaos, and the leader views prayer as a tool to offer society some peace of mind and order to the chaos? The governor would then find himself in a catch-22 situation where he is unable to fulfill the purpose of his position without violating one of the state’s key tenets.
• 118
• 118
Each house of the Congress starts each session with prayers to "Almighty God"

Is this true? If so, that is certainly a violation of the separation of church and state.
• 118
Didn’t realize that. Completely agree with you though.
• 9.5k
The governor would then find himself in a catch-22 situation where he is unable to fulfill the purpose of his position without violating one of the state’s key tenets.

Right - very difficult situation, I agree. But I think the principle would imply that it is ok for the Governor to offer a personal exhortation to prayer - it's when he starts to use the authority and instruments of office that the line is becoming blurred. It's not ideal in any case, but a matter of practical necessity in a pluralistic culture.

On the other hand, the US was very much founded on Christian principles and I myself am not a secular zealot, like, I don't agree with moves to abolish all symbols of religious belief in public life, like has been done in Montreal for example. I would rather adopt a live and let live attitude.
• 1.2k
I find the whole notion of separation of church and state to be an oxymoron. If the freedom to practice religion is a fundamental right, doesn't that mean religion is still prevalent in the general populace? And, where do politicians come from? From the general populace of course. So, while a nation is protected from devolving into a theocratic nightmare, it accomplishes only half the task because I'm sure the majority of the government officials are theists, guided, as it were, in their decisions by religious doctrine. It's like imposing a ban on the meat industry but still allowing people to consume meat.

The phrase dates back to a time when most people had religion. Even back then according to the constitution/bill of rights it was legal to be atheist.

Are you saying religion should be banned by american government?

I don't want to insert something into what you said that you didn't say which is why i'm asking?
• 5.4k
The phrase dates back to a time when most people had religion. Even back then according to the constitution/bill of rights it was legal to be atheist.

Are you saying religion should be banned by american government?

I don't want to insert something into what you said that you didn't say which is why i'm asking?

No, I don't believe religion should be banned but what worries me is that if philosophy has discovered anything, it's is that there's no such thing as a right answer to many of the issues we deem important and that too after thinking long and hard over many years.

Religion, on the other hand, not only claims to know the correct answers to everything but also prohibits rational inquiry into the validity of these answers. While I believe that no religion is completely wrong, I'd prefer it to be welcoming to positive, rational criticism.

Every religion I know of has a special word for those who don't believe in it and I believe most of these words translate to ignoramus. The upside of this practice of calling nonbelievers ignorant is that the faithful are under the impression that their religion counts as wisdom which, if anything, gives wisdom due recognition. The downside is once religion is equated to wisdom (in the traditional sense), it gains the advantage the latter has in terms of being both good and true, in the process making religion practically immune to any kind of criticism.

The problem with this line of thought is that believers have the wrong end of the stick re wisdom. If humanity has learned anything it's that sometimes, maybe even most of the time, we don't have the right answers. The traditional view that to have wisdom is to know everything thoroughly has been supplanted by the more realistic notion of wisdom as not only knowing stuff but also admitting ignorance. In a way then, religion, by claiming to know the truth and labeling nonbelievers as ignorant is actually proving, not that it possesses wisdom but in fact lacks it. It follows then that religion, by claiming perfect wisdom, makes itself unworthy of the attribute of wisdom. Ergo, it must open itself to critique or else continue on as an wisdom's impostor.

All what I've said up until this point is premised on religion being wrong but only as it appears to us, in this day and age. I'm open to the possibility, with great reluctance of course, that religion is correct and that either we don't understand or misunderstand religion. You know how it is...It's as easy to understand a fool as it is to misunderstand a sage.
• 9.5k
Religion, on the other hand, not only claims to know the correct answers to everything but also prohibits rational inquiry into the validity of these answers.

That is a shallow caricature if ever there was one. The entire university system of the West, not to mention the hospital system, and science itself, was started by religious orders and grounded in the Judeo-Christian system.

Of course is it true that there are dogmatic close-minded provincial believers, but the same can be said of militant atheists. Honest doubt is very much part of every religious believer's life, and those who can sanguinely accept religious nostrums without ever questioning their meaning are not by any means exemplars religious faith.

There is a very powerful cultural mythology in secular western culture, the 'conflict thesis', that religion and science are forever in conflict and that only one can win. That was very much the work of some eminent 19th century intellectuals, like William Tyndall and others, carried on now by their modern counterparts like Richard Dawkins. But again it is based on a shallow caricature; there are many scientists who hold religious beliefs, see for example The Genius and Faith of Faraday and Maxwell.

This dichotomy is the result of some particular developments within Western religious history; particularly Luther and Calvin's insistence on 'salvation by faith alone'. A lot of the problems go back to the suppression of the gnostic element in religious life; the means by which individual believers, or rather, practicers, come to see and know the truths of the faith in their own lives. 'Believe and be saved', is the teaching; 'don't, and be damned', is the usual implication. It seems like an open and shut case, a black and white situation, but that is very much a construct of our particular place in history.

If humanity has learned anything it's that sometimes, maybe even most of the time, we don't have the right answers.

Who is this 'we'? All mankind? All cultures? All philosophies? All religions? Who doesn't know what, exactly?
• 1.5k
Pinprick
85
Each house of the Congress starts each session with prayers to "Almighty God"
— Frank Apisa

Is this true? If so, that is certainly a violation of the separation of church and state.

The Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives is the officer of the United States House of Representatives responsible for beginning each day's proceedings with a prayer. The House cites the first half of Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 in the United States Constitution as giving it the authority to elect a Chaplain, "The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers".[1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaplain_of_the_United_States_House_of_Representatives

The Chaplain of the United States Senate opens each session of the United States Senate with a prayer, and provides and coordinates religious programs and pastoral care support for Senators, their staffs, and their families.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaplain_of_the_United_States_Senate

The House chaplain earns $172,500 a year while his Senate counterpart — currently Seventh-day Adventist minister Barry Black — earns$160,787. Adding staff and office expenses, the annual cost of maintaining these largely ceremonial tips of the hat to Christianity approaches \$1 million.
• 1.2k
The phrase dates back to a time when most people had religion. Even back then according to the constitution/bill of rights it was legal to be atheist.

Are you saying religion should be banned by american government?

I don't want to insert something into what you said that you didn't say which is why i'm asking?
— christian2017

No, I don't believe religion should be banned but what worries me is that if philosophy has discovered anything, it's is that there's no such thing as a right answer to many of the issues we deem important and that too after thinking long and hard over many years.

Religion, on the other hand, not only claims to know the correct answers to everything but also prohibits rational inquiry into the validity of these answers. While I believe that no religion is completely wrong, I'd prefer it to be welcoming to positive, rational criticism.

Every religion I know of has a special word for those who don't believe in it and I believe most of these words translate to ignoramus. The upside of this practice of calling nonbelievers ignorant is that the faithful are under the impression that their religion counts as wisdom which, if anything, gives wisdom due recognition. The downside is once religion is equated to wisdom (in the traditional sense), it gains the advantage the latter has in terms of being both good and true, in the process making religion practically immune to any kind of criticism.

The problem with this line of thought is that believers have the wrong end of the stick re wisdom. If humanity has learned anything it's that sometimes, maybe even most of the time, we don't have the right answers. The traditional view that to have wisdom is to know everything thoroughly has been supplanted by the more realistic notion of wisdom as not only knowing stuff but also admitting ignorance. In a way then, religion, by claiming to know the truth and labeling nonbelievers as ignorant is actually proving, not that it possesses wisdom but in fact lacks it. It follows then that religion, by claiming perfect wisdom, makes itself unworthy of the attribute of wisdom. Ergo, it must open itself to critique or else continue on as an wisdom's impostor.

All what I've said up until this point is premised on religion being wrong but only as it appears to us, in this day and age. I'm open to the possibility, with great reluctance of course, that religion is correct and that either we don't understand or misunderstand religion. You know how it is...It's as easy to understand a fool as it is to misunderstand a sage.

Considering the complacent and apathetic nature of modern people who adhere to the religion that i've chosen, i'm not sure i can argue that my religion is worth defending based on performance. Many of my chosen religion, construe a complacent and apathetic spirit as the Holy Spirit ("the comforter"). While i believe the Holy Spirit does sometimes condone complacency and apathy, it seems these people only embrace these spirits. That Holy Book says "test the spirits" (not that this implies not doing this is blasphemie against the Holy Spirit) meaning there are more than one spirit(s) according to that Holy Book amd not all of them are holy. The last "book" in this Holy book says there are 7 Holy Spirits (to my understanding of what is written)

As for all religions being the same, temple prostitution and child sacrifice was common among the Amorites (canaan and Iraq) and also other city states of Iraq, Hindu/India, Parthian/Greek, and also Roman, and i would guess there are more, i don't think its fair to say all religions have the same god/gods.

Also there have been Atheist rulers in history that have ruled with a rod of iron even to the point of imposing fear by randomly shooting citizens in the back of the head.
• 5.4k
That is a shallow caricature if ever there was one. The entire university system of the West, not to mention the hospital system, and science itself, was started by religious orders and grounded in the Judeo-Christian system.

This is true but, in my humble opinion, the good work done in these cases stand in stark contrast to and is sadly undone by what religion did later on - persecution of science is well documented, no? Goes by the term inquisition or so I heard. I deeply appreciate religion for birthing and nurturing science if that's what your claim is but, as we all know, the romance between them didn't last long for scientific discoveries contradicted religious doctrine in ways that precluded an amicable solution.

As far as I can tell, the difficulty seems to be with the religion, for it, as I said, doesn't tolerate criticism and science was/is in the process of laying down all the things religion got wrong. On the other hand, science is open to criticism and, if well-known science communicators are to believed, finding flaws in scientific theories is the hallmark of scientific progress.

In addition, the early love story between science and religion came about only because the latter lacked the foresight to see the consequences of developments in the former. Had the religious establishment know that science would eventually contradict it, the support science received from it would have never materialized.

There is a very powerful cultural mythology in secular western culture, the 'conflict thesis', that religion and science are forever in conflict and that only one can win. That was very much the work of some eminent 19th century intellectuals, like William Tyndall and others, carried on now by their modern counterparts like Richard Dawkins. But again it is based on a shallow caricature; there are many scientists who hold religious beliefs, see for example The Genius and Faith of Faraday and Maxwell.

This dichotomy is the result of some particular developments within Western religious history; particularly Luther and Calvin's insistence on 'salvation by faith alone'. A lot of the problems go back to the suppression of the gnostic element in religious life; the means by which individual believers, or rather, practicers, come to see and know the truths of the faith in their own lives. 'Believe and be saved', is the teaching; 'don't, and be damned', is the usual implication. It seems like an open and shut case, a black and white situation, but that is very much a construct of our particular place in history.

Thank you for reminding me that not all scientists are atheists and that there are scientists who're believers but this is as much evidence of compaitibility between religion as science as an American who had communist leanings is evidence that America and the Soviet Union were compatible. People and what beliefs they hold don't count as evidence for the rational worthiness of the beliefs themselves.

I wish you could expand a bit on what you said in the last paragraph about how "...that is very much a construct of our particular place in history". What do you mean by that? Do you mean to say that the current situation of animosity between religion and science is just an accident and that things could've been different? Frankly, it would be a big surprise for people to see two contradictory theories get along unless it's just a matter of agreeing to disagree instead of actual resolution of the issues between them.

Who is this 'we'? All mankind? All cultures? All philosophies? All religions? Who doesn't know what, exactly?

Let me ask you this: is there anyone, or even a group, who has the right answers to everything?
• 5.4k
Considering the complacent and apathetic nature of modern people who adhere to the religion that i've chosen, i'm not sure i can argue that my religion is worth defending based on performance. Many of my chosen religion, construe a complacent and apathetic spirit as the Holy Spirit ("the comforter"). While i believe the Holy Spirit does sometimes condone complacency and apathy, it seems these people only embrace these spirits. That Holy Book says "test the spirits" (not that this implies not doing this is blasphemie against the Holy Spirit) meaning there are more than one spirit(s) according to that Holy Book amd not all of them are holy. The last "book" in this Holy book says there are 7 Holy Spirits (to my understanding of what is written)

As for all religions being the same, temple prostitution and child sacrifice was common among the Amorites (canaan and Iraq) and also other city states of Iraq, Hindu/India, Parthian/Greek, and also Roman, and i would guess there are more, i don't think its fair to say all religions have the same god/gods.

Also there have been Atheist rulers in history that have ruled with a rod of iron even to the point of imposing fear by randomly shooting citizens in the back of the head.

I seem to have overlooked the dark side of atheism but I don't think atheism per se flips a switch inside our heads that make us go from peace loving, docile lambs to murderous, bloodthirsty villains. I'm not calling for criticism of religion because of the violence associated with it, although that would make a very good argument. What concerns me is the violent opposition of religious folks to subjecting the doctrines of their religions to proper scrutiny. No atheist will kill you for being a theist but the converse isn't true.
• 1.2k
Considering the complacent and apathetic nature of modern people who adhere to the religion that i've chosen, i'm not sure i can argue that my religion is worth defending based on performance. Many of my chosen religion, construe a complacent and apathetic spirit as the Holy Spirit ("the comforter"). While i believe the Holy Spirit does sometimes condone complacency and apathy, it seems these people only embrace these spirits. That Holy Book says "test the spirits" (not that this implies not doing this is blasphemie against the Holy Spirit) meaning there are more than one spirit(s) according to that Holy Book amd not all of them are holy. The last "book" in this Holy book says there are 7 Holy Spirits (to my understanding of what is written)

As for all religions being the same, temple prostitution and child sacrifice was common among the Amorites (canaan and Iraq) and also other city states of Iraq, Hindu/India, Parthian/Greek, and also Roman, and i would guess there are more, i don't think its fair to say all religions have the same god/gods.

Also there have been Atheist rulers in history that have ruled with a rod of iron even to the point of imposing fear by randomly shooting citizens in the back of the head.
— christian2017

I seem to have overlooked the dark side of atheism but I don't think atheism per se flips a switch inside our heads that make us go from peace loving, docile lambs to murderous, bloodthirsty villains. I'm not calling for criticism of religion because of the violence associated with it, although that would make a very good argument. What concerns me is the violent opposition of religious folks to subjecting the doctrines of their religions to proper scrutiny. No atheist will kill you for being a theist but the converse isn't true.

The Pope and Stalin have killed for not being Catholic/Athiest.

I would argue the corruption of religion dates back to whether a religion becomes like the religions of ancient Iraq. Temple prostitution in modern hinduism is an example of this.

Americans typically don't get violent over religion in modern times. Alot of American violence is over economic or on the other hand domestic issues.
• 118
Right - very difficult situation, I agree. But I think the principle would imply that it is ok for the Governor to offer a personal exhortation to prayer - it's when he starts to use the authority and instruments of office that the line is becoming blurred. It's not ideal in any case, but a matter of practical necessity in a pluralistic culture.

On the other hand, the US was very much founded on Christian principles and I myself am not a secular zealot, like, I don't agree with moves to abolish all symbols of religious belief in public life, like has been done in Montreal for example. I would rather adopt a live and let live attitude.

Well said. And I think your sentiments are spot on as well.
• 118
The corruption of religion implies that there is a more, for lack of a better term, pure form of it that exists, or at least existed. However, every denomination and sect of each individual religion claims to be this “pure” form. If I were to be cynical, I would say that religion has been corrupt since it’s inception, as it was used primarily as a tool to establish authority and “order,” but under the guise of “truth” or “morality.”
• 9.5k
persecution of science is well documented, no?

I think it's a popular myth. It's part of the 'conflict thesis' that I mentioned. The Trial of Galileo and the Scopes Trials are held up as examples of the animosity, but again, if you dig down into the history and literature, none of it is open and shut. Galileo was of course a brilliant scientist and unfairly prosecuted, but when you read into the history and politics, it is a very complex picture; there were very senior Catholics who were appalled that he was censured and regarded it as an historic error. ("The Bible teaches how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go", was one of their sayings. But they were drowned out by reactionary conservatism, which is characteristic of many large institutions.) It was political as much as religious.

As for the conflict between evolutionary theory and religion, I see the real conflict (like Plantinga does) in terms of the conflict between scientific materialism and religious fundamentalism. Again, there are scientists in that field who are absolutely committed to the study of evolutionary theory but who still understand human life against a religious background. Theodosius Dobzhansky, who more than anyone is responsible for the modern evolutionary synthesis, remained a committed Orthodox Christian all of his life. (For that matter, neither the Anglican, Catholic, or Orthodox communions ever condemned Darwin's works - that honor belongs uniquely to American Evangelical protestantism.)

The Inquisition is indeed a horrible stain on the Catholic Church, particularly the persecution of the Cathars, and the activities of the loathsome General Torquemada. I don't think anyone could ever defend any of that. But the way I see it now, they are examples of how human nature can corrupt the most noble of intentions.

But, there's a great book around, God's Philosophers, by James Hannam, which shows how essential the fundamental tenets of Christian Platonism were in the development of modern science. There are many others as well. Look into Stanley Jaki, an Hungarian Benedictine monk with PHDs in physics, philosophy and theology; he mounts an argument that modern science could only have sprung from Christian roots. (I myself think that Platonism and its Aristotelian descendants were indispensable in that.)

I wish you could expand a bit on what you said in the last paragraph about how "...that is very much a construct of our particular place in history". What do you mean by that? Do you mean to say that the current situation of animosity between religion and science is just an accident and that things could've been different?

The relation of science and religion in European culture is product of a particular set of historical circumstances. It's a lot deeper than accident - it's more like an Hegelian dialectic, of thesis (divine creation), anti-thesis (scientific materialism) and now an emerging synthesis (which I see in various disciplines like systems science, biosemiotics, and environmentalism which are neither theistic in the traditional sense nor materialistic in the modern sense.)

I think there was a really unfortunate emphasis in Western religion on orthodoxy, which basically means right belief; the experiential and gnostic facets of religious experience, which were preserved in Indian and Chinese religions, were suppressed, forced underground. I think, arguably, this is because belief is a much easier thing to manage than knowledge; once you can convince the populace that they must believe what you tell them, then control is much easier to maintain. The reaction against that, the wall of separation between the sacred and profane that became necessary - all of this is part of that deep picture. Which, very handily, comes right back to the OP.
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