Church & State: How Separate? (Part 3)

In the two previous blogs I approached to the Constitution’s address of where religion fits into the civil society, as it was one the topics broached at the previous Republican Presidential Primary debate held in New Hampshire a few weeks ago. The final question of this series on the nature of the Constitution’s First Amendment is what good has been brought to the civil society when religion has been removed from the public sphere of life? 

There are many today in our society, through all levels of society, who believe or promote the notion that the Constitution’s First Amendment teaches the separation of church and state.  This opinion has lead to a modern day isolationist mentality where one’s faith should be kept private from the public arena.  However, a clause which declares “the separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution.  The First Amendment does say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but “establishment” and “separation” are two completely different definitions. 

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Congressman Pushes for "The Year of the Bible." You're Joking, Right?

It's no joke. With the onslaught of the second great depression, Republican Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia has decided to push for a bill that will make 2010 the Year of the Bible. Year of the Rat (2008), Year of the Ox (2009), and now the Year of the Bible?

With Congress' approval, Ronald Reagan made 1983 the year of the Bible. And Broun wants to bring back this super hip, retro Christian idea. (Maybe we can bring back ‘80s music, tight jeans and huge hair while we're at it.) When Jewish and Atheist congressmen and congresswomen read Broun’s bill, they freaked out. A few even threw political temper tantrums, which must have been fun to watch.

What's hilarious about the reactions to this bill is that Jews share 39 sacred biblical books with Christians, but Jewish congressmen have been some of the most outspoken people against this bill. Unless someone from the Jewish faith is infuriated because of the church and state issue, I can’t wrap my head around why they would oppose this bill. But, even if separation of church and state causes someone to oppose this bill, there is still a problem with their understanding of the usage of the Bible. People and organizations outside the church use the Bible as well. There are even whole non-profit societies dedicated to studying the Bible that are not religious at all, like the Society of Biblical Literature.

What is fascinating about this whole fiasco is not the bill itself, but the reaction. Atheist leaders all over are saying that they are not even worried because church growth is declining and atheism is on the rise. “Right now, we’re seeing atheism on such a rise,” said David Silverman, vice president and national spokesman of American Atheists. I don’t know about you, but Silverman’s remark sure sounds like it stems from a cultic religion to me. Just replace the word atheism with Mormonism and suddenly things sound a little different, “Right now, we’re seeing Mormonism on such a rise.” When you read it with that word substituted, it’s jarring, isn’t it? Atheists aren’t worried because their religion is growing.

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