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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » The all over the map War on Religion Thread. (Page 1)

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Author Topic: The all over the map War on Religion Thread.
The Rabbit
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This thread was inspired by a discussion going on in the Republican Primary thread. It's an interesting discussion that is only tangentially related to the Republican Primary so I thought I'd give it its own thread.

There is a prevalent belief among conservative Christians that Christianity is under assault in American society. I'm not sure I understand the origin of this belief. I'm pretty confident its overblown but not entirely without cause.

I see a very interesting contrast living in Trinidad. Here, the population is roughly half Christians, 30%Hindu's, 10% Muslim and a small fraction Jewish, Buddhist, Rastafarian, Vodoun and atheist. But people are very accepting of the fact we live in a multi-religious society.
Christians join with their neighbors to celebrate Eid and Diwali. Hindus' and Muslims' enjoy the celebration of Christmas. I've never heard people complain that they those people who celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday are destroying it and no one seems to worry about wishing Muslims and Hindus a Merry Christmas. It hasn't always been this way. Christianity used to be the state religion and other religions were officially suppressed. Christianity has unquestionably lost influence and power in this society over the past half century but Christians aren't going around whining about being under attack. For the most part, they see recognition and acceptance of religious diversity as a good thing.

So why is it so different in the US? Why are American Christians so paranoid about being oppressed? Why do conservative American Christians see themselves as under assault from religious diversity and secularism?

I suppose I could just as well ask why religious minorities and non-religious people feel they are under assault from Christians, but the answer to that question is far more obvious to me.

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The Rabbit
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Also, I love the saying on this t-shirt. Its just so literal it makes me laugh.
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Mucus
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Should be noted, if you were to walk around the Middle East and ask them how the American war on Religion is going. They'd probably think you were referring to the *actual* war that America is waging in several *stan countries and Ir* countries.

Then when you look at countries like Canada and the UK, well we do have the "War on Christmas" meme. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_controversy
It's just not as strong.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Why do conservative American Christians see themselves as under assault from religious diversity and secularism?
like I quoted before:

quote:
I have to say, as someone who is not a Christian, it’s hard for me to believe Christians are a persecuted people in America. God willing, maybe one of you one day will even rise up and get to be president of this country — or maybe forty-four in a row. But that’s my point, is they’ve taken this idea of no establishment as persecution, because they feel entitled, not to equal status, but to greater status. - Stewart

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank: (in the Republican Primary thread)
. . . schools (not school loudspeakers, but school campuses) are generally purposed to be used by students as a place to learn and grow. Part of learning and growing is being exposed to new ideas and outlooks, including ones that you might find wrong or offensive. So I'm pretty firmly opposed to restrictions on student speech, including religious speech.

Since I'm worried I may be misread, let me repeat that at this point I suspect I'm speaking more abstractly and less about this SCOTUS decision, because it sounds like there were many other factors in this case that led to the decision being made the way it was. That's fine! I'm really just trying to make a distinction in principles, not in the particulars of this case. Okay?

You hit on one of the problems of perception. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the right of individual students to free speech, including religious speech, in the public schools. They have repeatedly ruled that restrictions on religious speech from students violate the first amendment. But very few people seem to know that. There is a popular perception that its forbidden for an individual student to pray or discuss religion in schools. That is absolutely untrue and the courts have ruled that such restriction violate the constitution.

The problem, as I see it, is that some people are trying to justify using government institutions to promote religion by claiming its a free speech issue. They are deliberately muddying the waters by claiming that things like prayers at football games are "student initiated" free speech. As a result, people get the false impression that students are forbidden to offer private prayers in public schools, which is nearly the opposite of the truth.

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Dan_Frank
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Sam: You don't think there is any backlash occurring in our society? A reaction against the historic hegemony Christianity has enjoyed in the US? I absolutely agree that the idea that there is a "war" on Christianity is patently absurd, but I do think that we sometimes overcompensate when trying to be more inclusive of other religions.

I don't know how accurate what he said was, but I also saw an interesting talk Penn Jillette gave about religion, and one thing I remember him saying was that if you go further back into our history, there was much less of a concept of "Christianity" as a unified force, and much more division between the sects. I do remember people making a hullabaloo that JFK was Catholic, so this seems plausible.

According to Penn (or Penn's source, I guess) the fight over abortion was a unifying force for Christians of all sects, and since then they realized that they can accomplish a lot more invasive laws if they work as a team. Some time after they unified would be when I see the backlash as having occurred, but I could be wrong. This could easily be one of those cases where I live in an ultra-liberal area so the "backlash" may actually be restricted to a comparatively small cluster that I am attributing to a larger group.

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank: (in the Republican Primary thread)
. . . schools (not school loudspeakers, but school campuses) are generally purposed to be used by students as a place to learn and grow. Part of learning and growing is being exposed to new ideas and outlooks, including ones that you might find wrong or offensive. So I'm pretty firmly opposed to restrictions on student speech, including religious speech.

Since I'm worried I may be misread, let me repeat that at this point I suspect I'm speaking more abstractly and less about this SCOTUS decision, because it sounds like there were many other factors in this case that led to the decision being made the way it was. That's fine! I'm really just trying to make a distinction in principles, not in the particulars of this case. Okay?

You hit on one of the problems of perception. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the right of individual students to free speech, including religious speech, in the public schools. They have repeatedly ruled that restrictions on religious speech from students violate the first amendment. But very few people seem to know that. There is a popular perception that its forbidden for an individual student to pray or discuss religion in schools. That is absolutely untrue and the courts have ruled that such restriction violate the constitution.

The problem, as I see it, is that some people are trying to justify using government institutions to promote religion by claiming its a free speech issue. They are deliberately muddying the waters by claiming that things like prayers at football games are "student initiated" free speech. As a result, people get the false impression that students are forbidden to offer private prayers in public schools, which is nearly the opposite of the truth.

I did say in my first response to Lyr in the other thread that I am aware that students are allowed to pray privately in schools, and that many members of the religious (as you said) believe the literal opposite of the truth in this regard. I saw the case in question as being an interesting middlepoint between the two sides, and one where perhaps we had erred too hard against prayer. After reading your analysis I think SCOTUS probably made an alright call here.

Generally speaking, I'm in favor of everybody being able to say whatever they want whenever they want, because I think that's an integral part of a free and open society, and I think that the best theories will win out in the end. But I recognize that schools are already pretty much the antithesis of a free and open society, sooo... it's a sticky situation, and I'm no more fond of the idea of cheerleaders being forced to listen to a prayer than you are. [Smile]

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Lyrhawn
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Back in Michigan, there was a kerfuffle over a new anti bullying law because it made exceptions for religious views. So taunting the fat kid is a no no, but taunting the Jewish kid is state sponsored. I hope the first case in court is a Muslim kid in dearborn making fun of a Christian kid so we can watch fox news flip out about it.
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Dan_Frank
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That seems stupid.

But then, you can probably guess my opinion of anti-bullying laws!

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Geraine
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I don't think there is an actual effort to oppress Christianity, however I do understand why some people would to think there was.

There are many in the Christian community that treat atheism as a religion, and any effort to make us a more secular country as those atheists forcing their religion onto them.

While I believe everyone should have the right to worship how they choose, I do believe that school wide programs that promote religion are wrong. If some football players wish to have a prayer before a game and it is not mandatory, I am ok with that. If there is a student that does not wish to pray with the rest, that is fine. Do I think the school should put a stop to it because the kid complains or does not feel comfortable with it? Nope. He has his right to believe what he wants just as the other kids do.

That being said, I do not think it appropriate for the paid staff, such as the coach, to participate or encourage the players to pray.

There is a case right now in Eastern Texas in a small town. They have had a nativity scene displayed near the courthouse for over 35 years, and now a Wisconsin based group is trying to get them to remove it because one person complained.

Can you blame these people for thinking that there are people warring against their religion? Right or wrong, these people believe that the will of one person is more important than the rest.

There are schools that if you mention your Christian beliefs in school you are suspended, yet rolling out a prayer mat and praying is ok. The difference is that one is defined as pushing beliefs on others, and the other is considered tolerance.

I really don't fall on either side of the isue, because it is too complex. Can I understand why some Christians would feel that there is a war on religion? Absolutely. That doesn't mean they are right, or that the people fighting for a more secular society are saints themselves.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Sam: You don't think there is any backlash occurring in our society? A reaction against the historic hegemony Christianity has enjoyed in the US? I absolutely agree that the idea that there is a "war" on Christianity is patently absurd, but I do think that we sometimes overcompensate when trying to be more inclusive of other religions.

Overcompensate? Not exactly.

Often I think the issue is that people have a poor understanding of what is entailed in multiculturalism- that it consists of a mutual celebration of cultures, rather than a broad suppression of a majority culture.

Interestingly, I think probably the ultimate reason for the commercial version of the "war on Christmas:" specifically such things as corporate secularization of sales and decoration, is *because* of Christians and their expectations, and not because of sensitivity to minorities.

Stores do a simple kind of math: If we decorate for *Christmas,* we will be missing out on welcoming and impressing the vast number of non-Christian clients whom we would like to serve, not to mention making our own non-Christian and/or secularist employees possibly uncomfortable. We could then decorate and advertise for other faiths, but this would be a) impractical, b) confusing, and c) off-putting to our majority of Christian clients- so that's a non-starter. OR, we could just decorate and advertise for a secular holiday, and avoid the whole thing, and people will still shop here because it's not like we're *anti* anything, we're just not playing a part in religious festivities.

That's an *easy* decision, and it's the right one. I guffaw at those who see it as a sinister plot, particularly some sort of sinister athiest/jewish/multiculturalist/liberal/socialist/fascist plot to destroy Christmas. We atheists and Jews, Muslims and Hindus, and probably the fascists and socialists, are all minority groups. We don't dictate the agenda to anyone, but we *are* paying customers, and it's only perfectly reasonable to want and pursue our business, especially given that it's so easy to appeal to everyone in a secular fashion.


quote:
I don't think there is an actual effort to oppress Christianity, however I do understand why some people would to think there was.

This is getting said a lot, and I want to know what it means. Does it mean that you understand, as in comprehend, the faulty reasoning behind this kind of thinking, although you reject it, or that you are sympathetic to those feelings, even if you don't have reason to believe that they are based on an accurate assessment.

Because honestly I *don't* understand people who think this is a conspiracy. The reasoning behind the argument is facile, and stupid, in my opinion, and I don't understand people who rely on facile stupid reasoning. I guess I *comprehend* how this reasoning works, but I share no sympathy with it, at all. So I'm curious what is meant by "I understand, those feelings/thoughts/views/ideas."

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The Rabbit
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quote:
There are schools that if you mention your Christian beliefs in school you are suspended, yet rolling out a prayer mat and praying is ok.
I need a reference because suspending a student for mentioning their Christian beliefs is in clear violation of the 1st amendment: a point that has been repeatedly clarified by the supreme court. If such a student were to sue in court, they would clearly win. Many school officials, parents and students don't clearly understand the laws so this may be happening. But I said before, the devil is in the details. Every time I've seen a case that was presented a Christian being punished for religious expression, the details showed a very different picture.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Sam: You don't think there is any backlash occurring in our society? A reaction against the historic hegemony Christianity has enjoyed in the US? I absolutely agree that the idea that there is a "war" on Christianity is patently absurd, but I do think that we sometimes overcompensate when trying to be more inclusive of other religions.

Overcompensate? Not exactly.

Often I think the issue is that people have a poor understanding of what is entailed in multiculturalism- that it consists of a mutual celebration of cultures, rather than a broad suppression of a majority culture.

Interestingly, I think probably the ultimate reason for the commercial version of the "war on Christmas:" specifically such things as corporate secularization of sales and decoration, is *because* of Christians and their expectations, and not because of sensitivity to minorities.

Stores do a simple kind of math: If we decorate for *Christmas,* we will be missing out on welcoming and impressing the vast number of non-Christian clients whom we would like to serve, not to mention making our own non-Christian and/or secularist employees possibly uncomfortable. We could then decorate and advertise for other faiths, but this would be a) impractical, b) confusing, and c) off-putting to our majority of Christian clients- so that's a non-starter. OR, we could just decorate and advertise for a secular holiday, and avoid the whole thing, and people will still shop here because it's not like we're *anti* anything, we're just not playing a part in religious festivities.

That's an *easy* decision, and it's the right one. I guffaw at those who see it as a sinister plot, particularly some sort of sinister athiest/jewish/multiculturalist/liberal/socialist/fascist plot to destroy Christmas. We atheists and Jews, Muslims and Hindus, and probably the fascists and socialists, are all minority groups. We don't dictate the agenda to anyone, but we *are* paying customers, and it's only perfectly reasonable to want and pursue our business, especially given that it's so easy to appeal to everyone in a secular fashion.

I completely agree!

My problem with the concept of multi-culturalism is not that I fear the majority culture will be suppressed. It's simply that I don't think all cultures are worth celebration. [Wink]

Edit: Oh also I guess I don't completely agree about whether or not there is any overcompensation. I do think there is a certain level of that, though I find your argument about businesses totally compelling. I don't think the backlash I mentioned is coming from businesses.

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Orincoro
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Well, Dan, multiculturalism resides in the legal framework, and the interpretation of that framework, of our rights and duties as citizens. It presupposes that we can and should coexist as separate cultures that enjoy mutual commerce, and live under a single legal framework, which will ensure our stable relations. Multiculturalism does not entail the forced homogenization of culture- it frees individual subcultures from having to appeal completely to a single cultural paradigm in order to have good standing in society.

Trust me, I live in a country that is having struggles with multiculturalism that Americans have *no* concept of these days. Where very reasonable and educated people wouldn't give a black person the time of day; and not out racism, but out of cultural superiority.

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Dobbie
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Also, I love the saying on this t-shirt. Its just so literal it makes me laugh.

War on axial tilt
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Dan_Frank
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I would submit that not all cultures can freely coexist, enjoy mutual commerce, and operate under a single legal framework. That's precisely the problem! Any that can, I don't really have a problem with. I don't think that individual subcultures should have to appeal to a single cultural paradigm per se, but I do think there is a basic barrier of entry for any liberal society, and I think that some cultures have a strong tendency to fail that test. I have no problem with those cultures reforming that failure while still maintaining their heritage, but I have a huge problem with acting as though it is wrong to call this failure what it is.

Also, is there some reason you think your example is not simply an example of (appallingly heinous) racism? Race ≠ Culture. And making assumptions about someone's culture because of their race is, fundamentally, racist.

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Dan_Frank
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Rabbit: Sorry if you feel like we're hijacking, by the way. Just let us know if you feel we are. [Smile]
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Scott R
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Back in Michigan, there was a kerfuffle over a new anti bullying law because it made exceptions for religious views. So taunting the fat kid is a no no, but taunting the Jewish kid is state sponsored. I hope the first case in court is a Muslim kid in dearborn making fun of a Christian kid so we can watch fox news flip out about it.

No, it really didn't. I mean, that's what a lot of the bloggers were saying the law said, but it was mostly a classic case of people overreacting to language.
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Jhai
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I think that Ta-Nehisi Coates hit on a very important element that is fueling the feelings of a "War on Christianity" in his post here.

quote:
But what if there's something else? What if the conservatives are more perceptive and honest than the moderate liberals? I love Grant and Lincoln, but they were dead wrong in claiming that emancipation did not promote "social equality." Meanwhile the bigots who asserted that emancipation meant that Sambo would be "marryin yer daughters" were right. I wouldn't be shocked if Grant and Lincoln knew this, but also knew that to admit as much would be suicidal.

Andrew, himself, has talked about the rigorous challenge atheism presents to Christianity. Are Christians in this country actually under-siege? Will Barack Obama's grandchildren, for instance, be as Christian as he is?

I think that many key components of conservative thought are "under attack" by changing social mores. Look at how quickly the status of interracial marriage has changed; I occasionally see bigots react to me, but it's not illegal in my state anymore. I suspect that it won't be an issue in *any* way by the time my generation's children are dating. Acceptance of homosexuality has rocketed, and, while it'll still be an issue in a few decades, it'll be a world away from what it was when I was a kid.
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Rakeesh
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I understand why some people feel there's a war on religion not unlike I understand why some people believe there was a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam, or that the moon landing was faked.

They're all profoundly bad, inaccurate ideas, but they seem kinda sensible from a certain point of view. I understand how, viewing the world from certain perspectives, it can feel like there's a war on religion in the USA today. But I don't at all understand it in the way we understand how someone else could arrive at a valid opinion we disagree with.

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Dan_Frank
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Jhai, I think that's very accurate. I think that in the long term, in any truly open society, atheism is going to eventually become the norm, because atheism is the only rational conclusion. Frankly, for all of these issues, I think the only thing you really need to do is strike down the systematic crushing of the rational viewpoint (be it on issues of race, sexuality, or religion), and the superiority of the egalitarian theory in question will win out in the end.

I think that when you push too hard trying to legislate people into believing something that you could just as easily persuade them using logic (because your side has the logic!), you run the real risk of generating more resistance and backlash than if you'd simply let all ideas stand or fall on their own merits.

When someone starts saying something terrible and stupid, the correct response is not to tell them to shut up. It's to let them keep talking, so that their terrible ideas can wither under the glare of reason and criticism.

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Scott R
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quote:
atheism is the only rational conclusion.
It is not.
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jebus202
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:
I think that Ta-Nehisi Coates hit on a very important element that is fueling the feelings of a "War on Christianity" in his post here.

quote:
But what if there's something else? What if the conservatives are more perceptive and honest than the moderate liberals? I love Grant and Lincoln, but they were dead wrong in claiming that emancipation did not promote "social equality." Meanwhile the bigots who asserted that emancipation meant that Sambo would be "marryin yer daughters" were right. I wouldn't be shocked if Grant and Lincoln knew this, but also knew that to admit as much would be suicidal.

Andrew, himself, has talked about the rigorous challenge atheism presents to Christianity. Are Christians in this country actually under-siege? Will Barack Obama's grandchildren, for instance, be as Christian as he is?

I think that many key components of conservative thought are "under attack" by changing social mores. Look at how quickly the status of interracial marriage has changed; I occasionally see bigots react to me, but it's not illegal in my state anymore. I suspect that it won't be an issue in *any* way by the time my generation's children are dating. Acceptance of homosexuality has rocketed, and, while it'll still be an issue in a few decades, it'll be a world away from what it was when I was a kid.
Is that an atheist principles winning over thing or is it religions just becoming more liberal? If a religion accepts homosexual marriage, are they less religious than one that doesn't?
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
atheism is the only rational conclusion.
It is not.
I'm pretty confident that we will not settle this one here. I apologize if the way I phrased that was offensive, though. Wasn't my intent.

Edit: Just so you know, it took every ounce of willpower to not simply reply "Is too!" [Wink]

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Parkour
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
atheism is the only rational conclusion.
It is not.
Atheism isn't the only rational conclusion, god speaks to me so I know!
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
atheism is the only rational conclusion.
It is not.
No, it is. But I also think attempting to convince religious people of this is irrational.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:

Also, is there some reason you think your example is not simply an example of (appallingly heinous) racism? Race ≠ Culture. And making assumptions about someone's culture because of their race is, fundamentally, racist.

There are concommitant logical fallacies associated with racism that are not exclusively the domain of ethnic prejudice. it is possible to be prejudiced without being racist- but in order to explain That, I would have to dealve into an explanation of racism that few people actually like to hear, because it doesn't fit well with the popular shorthand for racism.
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Dan_Frank
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I'm curious what you have to say. Perhaps yet another thread is in order? If you'd prefer not to discuss it here at all, that's cool too, no worries.
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aeolusdallas
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quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
atheism is the only rational conclusion.
It is not.
Atheism isn't the only rational conclusion, god speaks to me so I know!
There are medicines for that! :-)
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Samprimary
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In the grim future, there exists only children of the Republican Primary thread.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
atheism is the only rational conclusion.
It is not.
Atheism isn't the only rational conclusion, god speaks to me so I know!
That was surprisingly on the money. Congratulations!
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Back in Michigan, there was a kerfuffle over a new anti bullying law because it made exceptions for religious views. So taunting the fat kid is a no no, but taunting the Jewish kid is state sponsored. I hope the first case in court is a Muslim kid in dearborn making fun of a Christian kid so we can watch fox news flip out about it.

No, it really didn't. I mean, that's what a lot of the bloggers were saying the law said, but it was mostly a classic case of people overreacting to language.
I read the bill, it wasn't very long. It could certainly be construed to mean what the bloggers were saying. It all depends on how a judge sees it.

Of course, that wasn't the only problem with it. It had enforcement issues. But that's neither here nor there.

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Teshi
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Given how absurdly and exclusively Christian America is compared to most western countries, it's actually a bit funny. Especially considering countries like Canada and the UK don't have separation of church and state whereas the US clearly does. It's the law enshrined in that constitution that many Americans use to store a large amount of guns under their pillows. Why are people complaining?

I personally celebrate Christmas in an atheistic way. Tim Minchin accurately summarizes my approach to Christmas in his Christmas song.

I actually feel there are two Christmases: the secular one that involves presents, family and decorations, and the religious one which is the one about Jesus.

In a country like the UK, Christmas is more cultural rather than religious. It still struggles with its religious cousin, but aside from awkward school plays and religios guest speakers (who want to remind us of the 'gift that keeps on giving') most people recognise that Christmas is a holiday that can have nothing to do with religion. A Christmas tree covered with lights is more about pushing back the encroaching and early (!) darkness than about welcoming the Christ Child.

In the US, Christianity is so prevalent and so heartfelt that a Christmas tree is not an expression of holiday joy or connected to the pagan festivals that were centered around the Winter Solstice but only a symbol of religiousness at Christmastime.

As that form, I can understand that people of other religions might feel rather offended that despite that little piece of constitution, Christianity still gets to slap itself all over government buildings.

What the US needs to do to get more Christianity, ironically, is to be far less zealous about it. Stop appropriating everything related to Christmas as religious, regardlesss of their provenance. Sure, "Santa" is a saint but is anyone really committed to that fact anymore? Clearly not. Santa today is a modern invention.

We don't have to remember "the true meaning of Christmas" at all and if Christianity stopped trying to remind everyone of it all the time there would be far more public Christmas celebrations because atheists and people of other religions would participate more willingly. As Tim Minchin suggests, many atheists don't even mind carols; after all, rather a lot of them describe things that didn't happen in the Bible or absurdities like Jesus in the snow, so I think many people think the Christmas Carol crazy ship is one that that left a long time ago.

And yes, some of you may come along spluttering and saying, "But Christmas is a religious celebration, clearly."

No. Christmas was, in some locations, a religious celebration that coincided with other celebrations of a similar nature. There's nothing universal about the 25th of December, Christmas trees or Christmas cacti, shoes filled with candy or stockings filled with presents. What these things are are a cultural Christmas.

Stop trying to make cultural Christmas religious, and you'll get a lot more Christmas in your public life. Make it the precious preserve of the zealous few, and it will disappear from public eye.

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Teshi:
Given how absurdly and exclusively Christian America is compared to most western countries, it's actually a bit funny. Especially considering countries like Canada and the UK don't have separation of church and state whereas the US clearly does. It's the law enshrined in that constitution that many Americans use to store a large amount of guns under their pillows. Why are people complaining?

Just for funsies, do you know where "the separation of church and state" appears enshrined in the US constitution?

Man, I wish the constitution explicitly allowed us to store lots of guns under our pillows. Firstly, because I like liberty and don't like it when the state tells me where I have to store my guns. But more importantly, I hate to be comfortable, and storing guns under my pillow would mean I could get rid of all the rocks and sticks I have there now. Which would be great.

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Teshi
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First amendment? Am I making a mistake?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
As Tim Minchin suggests, many atheists don't even mind carols; after all, rather a lot of them describe things that didn't happen in the Bible or absurdities like Jesus in the snow, so I think many people think the Christmas Carol crazy ship is one that that left a long time ago.
Sophie and I have had this conversation already. She loves Christmas carols, but it's pretty clear to her that the things described in the carols are darned unlikely. She also figured out the Santa thing for herself three years ago, but interestingly is fascinated by the real-life "Saint Nicholas"; even though we've also discussed the fact that many of the most lovely stories about Nicholas are almost certainly no more truthful than the ones about Santa Claus, she likes to refer to Saint Nicholas as "the Santa who was sort of real".

Christmas and Easter are the two holidays that really drive it home for her that there are people who believe very strongly in things that her dad doesn't. We've had conversations about what Christians mean when they talk about "the reason for the season," and what Linus is describing in the Christmas special, and even why people have lamb-shaped cakes at Easter (although she finds that whole concept horrifying.)

But we still enjoy the holidays themselves enormously. I'm not even going to say that we enjoy the trappings of the holidays, because frankly I think we enjoy those two holidays for what they really are: a celebration of light and family in the darkness of winter, and a grateful outpouring of joy at the start of Spring. And Sophie gladly sings the carols along with me, even though she feels a little awkward doing it, because "people like nice stories."

------------

Teshi: the separation of church and state is a concept derived from the text of the First Amendment, but in reality the First Amendment's religious protections are not as strongly worded as they have been interpreted. Many Christians like to assert, for example, that stamping the Ten Commandments all over a courthouse does not violate the written text of the First Amendment -- even though it's a clear violation of the concept of the separation of church and state -- because they do not consider it to be an establishment of religion.

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Orincoro
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Many people would like to ignore, for convenience, the process by which we interpret the constitution, and the actual body of law that is based upon it, in favor of some more comfortable interpretation, which has no basis in precedent.
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Samprimary
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quote:
In the US, Christianity is so prevalent and so heartfelt that a Christmas tree is not an expression of holiday joy or connected to the pagan festivals that were centered around the Winter Solstice but only a symbol of religiousness at Christmastime.
A christmas tree is only a symbol of religiousness here?
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Orincoro
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Huh, I personally wold buy a tree for the association with family togetherness that it represents. And we aren't really a Christian family- at least, if you asked any of us, that isn't the answer you'd get.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Just for funsies, do you know where "the separation of church and state" appears enshrined in the US constitution?.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think we all know that exact phrase never appears in the constitution. :yawn:

Neither do the phrases "separation of powers" or "checks and balances", but they are all phrases that were used by the founding fathers and which were guiding principles in the drafting of the constitution.

I get very annoyed with people who treat the constitution likes its divine scripture. Its not. It's the furtherest possible thing. It wasn't dictated letter by letter by God. It doesn't have a single perfect author whose intent we must try to understand. It wasn't intended to be a permanent guiding principal of our political lives.

Its a compromise document drafted by men who disagreed about almost everything. The intent of the founding fathers was to produce a document that a super majority would support. That meant settling for some parts that were obviously clunky (like method for electing the President). It meant being intentionally vague on some points. It meant including some pretty vile stuff, like slavery. It meant completely ignoring some contentious questions (like session). The founding fathers knew it wasn't perfect and that it would have to be changed, that's why they included a means for amending it.

They knew that many of the contentious issues would have to be resolved in the legislature and courts rather than in the constitution itself.

[ December 09, 2011, 08:52 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
In the US, Christianity is so prevalent and so heartfelt that a Christmas tree is not an expression of holiday joy or connected to the pagan festivals that were centered around the Winter Solstice but only a symbol of religiousness at Christmastime.
I find this statement completely baffling. I don't know anyone Christian who considers a Christmas tree to be a Christian religious symbol. In fact, I've often heard Christmas trees and Santa listed among the secular aspects of Christmas.

[ December 09, 2011, 09:10 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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advice for robots
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I've never considered the tree a religious symbol, nor the presents under it. It takes thought and a little imagination to tie them into a religious Christmas theme, which I usually don't bother to do. And yet we put up the tree and put presents underneath it every year because that's our tradition, too, and such traditions are comforting. The kids love to decorate the tree and keep the lights on in the evening, and they sure as heck love seeing the presents.
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Scott R
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^
Ditto.

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jebus202
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On the other hand, renaming a Christmas tree to a "holiday tree" is deemed an attack on religion by some, despite the fact that it's not religious.
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Mucus
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Yeah, not sure how that squares.
quote:
The head of the Roman Catholic church in Providence also criticized Chafee's decision not to use the word Christmas.
Chafee's decision "is most disheartening and divisive," Bishop Thomas Tobin said in a statement. He said it ignores American traditions and is "an affront to the faith of many citizens."

quote:
"He's trying to put our religion down," Ken Schiano of Cranston, who came to the tree lighting after hearing about the controversy, told USA Today. "It's a Christmas tree. It always has been and it always will be, no matter what that buffoon says it is," he added.
(my emphasis)

[ December 09, 2011, 11:58 AM: Message edited by: Mucus ]

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Geraine
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I am ok with Christmas being portrayed publicly has a secular holiday, and I think for the most part it is.

What irks me is the people that complain when you tell them Merry Christmas. When I tell that to someone it is wishing them well. I'm not trying to convert them to Christianity.

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kmbboots
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I agree that getting angry about well wishes is pointless but why would you wish someone a Merry Christmas when they don't celebrate Christmas? It is rather like wishing someone Happy Birthday when it isn't their birthday. Wouldn't it make more sense to wish them a happy whatever they have? If you really wish them well, why not express that wish in a way that will please the recipient?
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jebus202
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Has that actually happened to you? I thought that kind of stuff was just anti-PC urban legends. I can't imagine getting annoyed at being offered well wishes on a holiday celebrated by another culture.
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Teshi
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quote:
On the other hand, renaming a Christmas tree to a "holiday tree" is deemed an attack on religion by some, despite the fact that it's not religious.
This is my point. I recognise the tree as a secular symbol and I realise many other people who celebrate wholly or partially secularly do as well, but people who celebrate Christmas almost exclusively religiously would like to try to insist that the tree is part of a religious symbol, either to remove or preserve it.

These are the voices that seem to make the most noise in the US.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Stores do a simple kind of math: If we decorate for *Christmas,* we will be missing out on welcoming and impressing the vast number of non-Christian clients whom we would like to serve, not to mention making our own non-Christian and/or secularist employees possibly uncomfortable. We could then decorate and advertise for other faiths, but this would be a) impractical, b) confusing, and c) off-putting to our majority of Christian clients- so that's a non-starter. OR, we could just decorate and advertise for a secular holiday, and avoid the whole thing, and people will still shop here because it's not like we're *anti* anything, we're just not playing a part in religious festivities.
I still find this attitude perplexing. The celebration of Christmas as a secular holiday is already widespread around the world. They were playing Christmas carols in Japan when I was there in October. Trinidad is a far more multi-cultural than the US and stores here decorate for "Christmas". Almost all Hindus and Muslims here are happy to join in the secular aspects of the celebration as are almost all non-religious Americans.

I know lots of people (Christian and non-Christian) who dislike the overt commercial marketing of Christmas and the pressure to buy stuff nobody actually wants that comes with the season. I know plenty of people, both Christian and non-Christian, who are sick of the Christmas Muzak. I don't know anyone who would be willing to spend a lot of money on Christmas crap as long as it gets called "Seasonal" rather than "Christmas".

I can understand the need to be inclusive. Years ago when I first proposed making a hatrack charitable donation for Christmas, several of the forum Jews said they'd like to participate as long as it wasn't called a "Christmas donation". So I proposed "Holiday" or "Seasonal". Then a Jehovah's witness said they would like to participate but couldn't join in if we referred to any holidays or seasons, so we settled on "annual donation". I was more than willing to do that to make it inclusive but still wished it wasn't necessary. Note that the difficulty was caused solely by the word we used to describe the donation, not by the nature of the donation itself.

I have a friend who is Jordanian. The community he came from had a mix of Muslims and several different Christian denominations that celebrated different holidays. He said it was traditional to invite all your friends of every religion into your home for your important religious holidays. Someone in the family stayed home to entertain guests while the rest went around visiting friends. He said he actually enjoyed the holidays from other religions more because then you didn't have to entertain in your home so the whole family could go out visiting neighbors. I find it unfortunate that we can't be more like that in the US.

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