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July 21, 2005
Dafydd: A Pro-Christian Jewish Agnostic Speaks Out

I could have more provacatively titled this post "Are Atheists Actually Demented?" because that is the impression I get from the founder and head of the premier anti-religion organization in the country, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State -- or United Separators, as I call them for short.

Up on their website, the United Separators have come out swinging against Judge John. G. Roberts, who the president named as his nominee to the Supreme Court a couple of days ago. In "Senate Should Reject Confirmation Of John G. Roberts To Supreme Court, Says Americans United," an unsigned article posted yesterday, founder and chief anti-religion guru Barry Lynn draws his line in the sand (hat tip to Michael Medved, who mentioned this on his radio show today):

John Roberts has long been a faithful soldier in the right wings war on the Bill of Rights, said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. He does not support personal liberties and should not receive a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

He cites only one example of Roberts' "war on the Bill of Rights": his brief, while serving as deputy solicitor general for Bush-41 (that is the say, the position of the first Bush administration, which Roberts, as their attorney, faithfully argued to the Court), which Lynn describes as follows:

Lynn noted that Roberts, as deputy solicitor general in the first Bush White House, drafted a key legal brief urging the Supreme Court to scrap decades of settled church-state law and uphold school-sponsored prayer at public school graduation ceremonies and other forms of government-endorsed religion. (At the time, Roberts was serving as political deputy in charge of crafting policy under then Solicitor General Kenneth Starr.)

Roberts will work to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state and open the door to majority rule on religious matters, Lynn said. In a game with such high stakes, this unwise crusade should disqualify him.

What? You mean -- Roberts actually supported enforced prayer in the schools, where young tots would be forced to their knees under penalty of physical brutality and forced to mouth words against their own religious faith? Yep, that's exactly what Mr. Lynn would like you to believe. (And note the reverse name-dropping, guilt-by-employment of noting that Roberts' boss was... Kenneth Starr, gasp!)

However, the New York Times, at the end of a lengthy and surprisingly flattering bio-piece on Roberts, went into somewhat more detail on this case:

The government had asked the Supreme Court to discard an earlier test and overturn a lower court ruling that held a clergyman could not give an official address at a junior high school graduation in Providence, R.I. It asked the court to rule that "civic acknowledgments of religion in public life do not offend the establishment clause" of the Constitution "as long as they neither threaten the establishment of an official religion nor coerce participation in religious activities."

At the time, officials in the first Bush administration told reporters that the reason for intervening was a tactical decision to try to draw out Justice David H. Souter, then the court's newest member, and get him on the side of the administration, which was hoping eventually to change the approach to religion in public settings.

In the end, the court voted 5 to 4 against the administration and upheld the lower court's decision. Among those in the majority were Justice Souter and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose seat Judge Roberts has been nominated to fill.

Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Wednesday that Judge Roberts's participation in the case makes him "unsuited for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court." He said that if confirmed to the court, Judge Roberts would "open the door to majority rule on religious matters."

So the case was actually about allowing a clergyman to speak at a junior-high graduation. Great Scott, it's a theocracy!

The hair-on-fire hysteria on the part of the United Separators at the mere idea of a guy with a backwards collar being allowed to say a word at a graduation is only marginally less irrational than the ACLU threatening to sue the County of Los Angeles unless they removed the teeny, tiny cross atop a mission in the county seal, lest some unsuspecting and easily influenced Hindu or Buddhist see it and spontaneously combust.

Full disclosure: the "Jewish agnostic" of the title is myself; I'm Jewish on my parents' side, coming from a long tradition of secular American Jews stretching back to about the 1830s. But far from sharing Mr. Lynn's frothing hatred of anyone who believes in God, I myself love widespread Christianity and Judaism in society.

I absolutely believe that it is vital for a free and civilized society that the huge majority of people believe in what Dennis Prager calls "ethical monotheism." Prager defines ethical monotheism (as I understand it) as the belief in one omniscient God who demands that human beings behave towards each other with both decency and justice. Unless ethical monotheism is at the very core of a culture, that culture will retreat from justice and mock decency, and it will become a hellish place to live.

So I hope you're forgive my bluntness, but Barry Lynn and his United Separators can just go to the Hell that I don't believe in!

For the rest of this crabby, pro-Christian, pro-Jewish rant by a secular agnostic, read on!

The necessity is clear: all of our concepts of freedom and liberty derive from belief in the divinity of the human soul, found in both Judaism and Christianity. The rule of law derives from the idea of universal right and wrong -- which derives ultimately from Judaism's belief (even before Jesus) that the law is for all, king and shepherd alike. Even the scientific method also derives from the idea of universal right and wrong: gravity in the United States in 2005 is the same as gravity in Napoleonic France, Medival Germany, and the Roman Empire, whether it was recognized or not... which means not only the eternal values of Western civilization and the United States but even the material benefits that derive from modernity all depend upon ethical monotheism.

Which is why the farther you stray from that societal religious belief, the more tyrannical, backwards, and poverty-stricken that society becomes. Europe has turned its back on religion, and not coincidentally, on self defense, on economic growth, and on justice and decency (examples available upon request). But they sure love their anti-American grandstanding!

We may pass lightly over economic basket-cases like Tibet, horrific "atheist" dictatorships such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Mao's China, and the Latin American thugocracies (now new and improved in Venezuela!), and... well, the less said about the recent history of sub-Saharan Africa, the less likely I'll get my mug shot up on the wall of the Daily Kos: Wanted, dead or even deader, for crimes against progressivism!

(Note that just claiming to be a Christian does not make one an ethical monotheist; it depends upon one's actual beliefs, not the label.)

And I think it also succinctly answers Professor Bernard Lewis's question, "what went wrong" with Islam? Islam is monotheistic; but it is not, in my opinion, an "ethical monotheism." This is because in Islam, the most important duty that believers owe to other men is not to treat them with decency and justice, but rather to convert them to Islam, by force if necessary; and if they will not convert, to enslave them -- or kill them.

Ethical monotheisms very often behave unethically; this goes all the way back to the reign of King Saul in ancient Israel. But for every King Saul there is a Prophet Samuel who can step up to point out that the Law is for all. Throughout the long and evil history of slavery in the Christian West, for but one example, there were always opponents, some clergy and some lay, who argued that the institution was inherently unjust and wicked, for all men and women had divine souls that could not be herded like cattle. For centuries, the arguments fell on ears deafened by greed and inertia... but the arguments were there, ready to be used, when civilization finally matured to the point where it became the majority view in the nineteenth century.

Those arguments were never made in other cultures, for they made no sense: they did not have the concept of universal right and wrong. And they still don't, even today; I have never heard any deep or heartfelt rejection of slavery within Islam, for example; the arguments are merely of practicality, if they are even made at all.

The highest ideal of Buddhism appears to be acceptance of one's fate, from my reading; this is the ideal of perpetual victimhood. And the highest ideal of Communism and Naziism is obedience to the current party line. As I said supra, I believe the greatest ideal of Islam is conversion by any means necessary.

Only in Judeo-Christianity is the greatest ideal justice. For this reason, hostility towards mainstream Judeo-Christianity deeply offends me as a civilized Westerner, as an American, and especially as a secularist.

I want mainstream Catholics, Protestants, and Jews on the Supreme Court. I want the president and members of Congress to be mainstream Jews or Christians of some specific and heartfelt sect. Not some vague "Christian" who changes his religion over a bicycle path (if you know what I mean, and I think you do); but somebody who actually has a firm belief in some specific religion that actually sets ethical boundaries on his decisions and behavior. To quote my favorite TV show, "no man should be allwed to govern others until he has first learned to govern himself."

To repeat myself (because I like the phrase and because I'm basically too lazy to think of a different ending)... unless ethical monotheism is at the very core of a culture, that culture will retreat from justice and mock decency, and it will become a hellish place to live.

So I hope you're forgive my bluntness, but Barry Lynn and his United Separators can just go to the Hell that I don't believe in!

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Posted by Dafydd at July 21, 2005 4:44 PM

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