February 17, 2009

Separation of Church and State

Religion in Our Schools

Most of us send our children off every day to school. Why do we send our children to school? Obviously, to learn. We hope that they become responsible. That they will obtain skills needed for life. That they can have an understanding of what goes on in life.

In the Head Start system in the state of New York, the teacher has to abide by state guidelines. A student may walk up to a teacher and says, “Today is my birthday.” The teacher cannot even say a simple, “Happy Birthday.” Why? So that we do not offend someone.

They do it in the name of Political Correctness. A Jehovah’s Witness does not celebrate birthdays. They believe that:

The early Christians did not celebrate birthdays. The custom of celebrating birthdays comes from ancient false religions.

Beliefs and Customs That Displease God
(Official Web Site of Jehovah’s Witnesses)

Teaching Diversity

How about this: instead of teaching our kids to hide, let’s teach them diversity. If there be a Jehovah’s witness in the class, then do not celebrate that child’s birthday. But rather teach about that child’s religion and customs.


PhillyChief said...

• Can you quote the exact statement in the NY state guidelines where it says teachers can't say "happy birthday" to a student?

• There is no state approved religion.

I agree, different beliefs should be taught, but objectively. Good luck there.

• You've got a lot of things here all jumbled up, so let me help you out.
- Atheism is a position, not a set of beliefs. Your first definition is not applicable.
- Stating 'atheism is a belief' does not magically make it so.
- Atheism is not the belief that there is no god, but rather that god belief isn't warranted.
- "Stick to their beliefs" does not automatically imply religious belief.

• The Establishment Clause makes it clear that there can not be nor appear to be the establishment of a national religion nor the perceived preference of one religion or can there be support of a religious idea with no identifiable secular purpose.

The presence of religious items on government property implies preference, which is a violation of the Establishment Clause (which is why at X-mas, they have Jewish, Hindu, atheist, and whatever other kind of display as well as mangers to avoid the appearance of showing preference).

The absence of religious items from government property does not equal establishing atheism. To establish atheism, you'd have to have items on display claiming god belief is unwarranted. You'll never see that because of... say it with me... the Establishment Clause! Having nothing is neutral, having something is not. It's really that easy.

As to your final questions:
- I'm no fan of political correctness
- Where are they teaching atheism?
- Diversity is taught to various degrees, but often it's Christians who object to their kids learning about other religions in the US. Sad.

Oscar Gecko said...

** Can you quote the exact statement in the NY state guidelines where it says teachers can't say "happy birthday" to a student?
-- When I lived in NY, I knew a Head Start teacher. This story comes from her experiences. There may or may not be a written policy, but it is what they are told.

Definitions can be tricky. According to Dictionary.com, the word "run" has over 100 definitons. And they vary vastly.

You can also define "religion" in many different ways. It may or may not encompass things that do not involve a deity.

You can also define "Atheism" in many ways. And maybe there is no written doctrine, it can also be a religion.

And I agree with your statements on the Establishment Clause. Sadly, instead of Freedom OF Religion, we are moving towards Freedom FROM Religion.

PhillyChief said...

So you're stating hearsay as fact. Gotcha.

Definitions CAN be tricky, which is why one needs to take great care and understanding, rather than using non applicable definitions.

Try looking up "equivocation", for that's what you're doing.

You can't be free to practice your religion or no religion if another religion is forced on you; thus, inherent in the Establishment Clause is freedom both of and from religion. Look up the exchange between the Danbury Baptists and Jefferson for starters.

Oscar Gecko said...

Hearsay.. but it is a source that I trust. And with the way lawyers are today, it doesn't seem far fetched. If I didn't trust my source, I wouldn't have stated it.

And why do you think atheism is not a religion? Are you also saying that in order to qualify as a religion, it must follow a deity? And have written cannon of some sort?

PhillyChief said...

You can't present as fact something someone tells you, especially when it's something so outrageous as claiming what's in a state's guidelines. The responsible thing would be to verify the claim or at the very least, state that the claim is hearsay.

Did you bother to look up equivocation? What you're trying to do is on one hand find a very generic definition of religion which virtually anything could be then referred to as a religion and thus use it to call atheism a religion, then on the other hand talk of atheism being a religion clearly using another definition for religion. THAT'S equivocation.

Now what I find curious is why would someone who is religious want atheism to be considered a religion? What do you stand to gain from that?

Oscar Gecko said...

I did look up the definition of equivocation. It is interesting that atheist consistently accuse Christians of that.

But stop to think... How many people (largely atheist, but not just atheists) will try to lump ALL Christians into the same category as the TV Evangelist who begs for money... As the Preacher who is mistaken and strays from his beliefs (he after all is human)...

They point and say that ALL Christians are like that.

And by doing so, they miss the point of being a Christian.

PhillyChief said...

It's interesting that Christians refuse to admit they're equivocating, even after having it pointed out to them so often.

The rest of what you've said has many points to address. First, are you trying to argue that it's ok to equivocate because allegedly atheists do it, too? If so, we both know two wrongs don't make a right.

The confusion which may cause an atheist to lump all Christians together is caused by Christians and Christianity itself. No doubt you know the "true" Christianity, but every brand of Christianity and every Christian makes that same claim, and always has, from Fred Phelps to the Pope, from Rick Warren to Joseph Smith, from Jim Jones to Billy Graham. It's hardly the atheists' responsibility to sort out who are the "real" Christians and who aren't or which brand of Christianity is the "real" one.

Even if it was our responsibility, to do so is impossible. There's no set of instructions that come with the Bible as far as how to interpret its text and which parts to follow and which can be ignored or considered merely advisory; furthermore, there's no way to know for sure the sincerity of someone's interpretation of the Bible to justify their actions. Add to this such things as claims of personal revelation and there's simply no way to know who's a "real" Christian.

Thus, "the point of being a Christian" is not a clear, objective fact like a dictionary definition, but rather a relative, subjective thing.

To further complicate this, you Christians actually are guilty of worse than what you're accusing atheists of. When one Christian suffers a wrong, do you tend to say he/she was attacked, that brand of Christianity was attacked, or that Christianity itself was attacked? Yet if that person was guilty of a crime, like Timothy McVeigh or the VT shooter, you Christians are quick to insist they aren't real Christians. One brand of Christianity will argue theirs is the one true way, that other Christians aren't "real" Christians, yet you'll gladly claim all those others as fellow Christians when bragging about how more humans subscribe to Christianity than any other religion. Talk about equivocation!

PhillyChief said...

Btw, I'd still like to know why you feel compelled to have atheism considered a religion. You haven't answered that yet.

Oscar Gecko said...

Please forgive me for not mentioning it sooner... Yes, I was "equivocating." But it was out of sheer ignorance that I did. I do not know what it means to be an atheist. I am only a human trying to understand why an atheist is what he/she is. My apologies for not mentioning it sooner.

But at least we both understand that we are both unaware of exactly what the other believes or disbelieves.

But I find it sad that there are self-proclaimed Christians who use God as if He were a Super Wal-mart. Or they feel that they are better than everyone else because the think they know God. Then everyone see them and say to themselves, "Why would I want to be like that?"

And that is a good question... Why would someone want to be like that big phony??? But I plan on a blog about that too. Because their fate is no worse than an Atheist's.

Atheism as a religion? It is a matter of the origin of the word. Look at the root words of Theism or Theist.
--the = a deity.
--ism = Belief in


--ist = one who believes

Add teh "a" to the beginning...
--a = no, or not.

PhillyChief said...

Your use of one definition in one place and another definition in another does not point to ignorance, but rather intent, or in other words, intelligent design. ;)

Still, you insist on trying to paint atheism as a religion and you've yet to explain why. This will be my third time asking. Care to offer an answer, or will I need to ask again, or again?

Oscar Gecko said...

ism a theos
doctrine/belief of no god

a theos ist
person who follows the doctrine/belief of no god

Do you think a religion has to have a written doctrine? Or be organized?

PhillyChief said...

A belief is not a religion. Would you consider these religions?:

• athleticism
• feminism
• vegetarianism
• academicism
• collectivism
• socialism
• egoism
• finalism
• idealism

For the fourth time, what is your motivation for labeling atheism a religion?

Oscar Gecko said...

Motivation? Clarity.

You can be religious about anything. Even the items you listed. It does not need a written doctrine, or deity.

But it depends on yours and my definition of religion. I suppose you could say we are equivocating.

PhillyChief said...

You could say we're equivocating, but you'd be only half right. ;)

Like I said, if you want to use a broad definition of religion which is comparable to passion, then yes, you can say one is religious about anything. However, once you do that, you forfeit the right to equate or imply that any such activity is a religion in the same sense Christianity or Hinduism is. Again, THAT is equivocating.

I don't find your claim of clarity as motivation plausible, for you don't appear to accept contrary arguments (essential for reaching clarity) and you are too zealous (or perhaps you'd prefer "religious") in your efforts to declare atheism as a religion. Furthermore, your equivocations do not result in clarity, but quite the opposite.

Oscar Gecko said...

Why do you say atheism is not a religion?

PhillyChief said...

Why do you insist that it is?

Common definitions of religion include:
1.a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
1.b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

Relying on the 4th definition for use of the word renders it far too general and practically meaningless. Such behavior is not indicative of a pursuit of clarity.

Knowing full well what most people think of when hearing the term "religion", namely the other three (really four since #1 has two definitions) definitions, and yet still choosing to label something a religion based solely on #4, is not an act indicative of a pursuit of clarity.

Witnessing equivocation at work here and having that admitted to, again, is not indicative of a pursuit of clarity.

So again I ask, what is your motivation for labeling atheism a religion?

Oscar Gecko said...

Let me say it this way.

There is a difference between Religion and Christianity, just as there is between Religion and Atheism. Christianity is a position, just as Atheism is a position.

Whatever you call one, let us do the same with the other. My article takes the point of view that they are both religions. That being said, both views are protected under our Constitution.

PhillyChief said...

First, I'd say that's the first time I ever heard someone claim Christianity is not a religion.

Second, according to all definitions, Christianity is a religion.

Third, why then did you take such time to try and insist atheism is a religion, and insist such efforts were in pursuit of clarity, if you in actuality feel atheism is not a religion?

Fourth, if you feel neither Christianity nor atheism is a religion, then why write an article claiming they are and as such, deserve Constitutional protection as such?

Fifth, no, let us not call one the same as we do the other, for they're not the same.

Here, let me cut to the chase. You've attempted to classify atheism as a religion to try to invoke some violation of the Establishment Clause by showing the government is establishing or favoring atheism. That attempt fails because:
• atheism isn't a religion
• the government's actions which you object to are not endorsements or establishments of atheism

I suggest you seek clarity on the Establishment Clause, on what a religion is, and what atheism is.

Good luck.

Oscar Gecko said...

I will ask again...
Why do you say atheism is not a religion?

What is your motivation for NOT labeling atheism a religion?

PhillyChief said...

• According to only a very broad definition which is vague enough to apply to virtually everything, atheism can be labeled religion

• People generally have every other definition of religion come to mind when they hear the word, thus calling atheism religion invokes a false idea

• The risk, be it intentional or willful, to cause confusion when referring to atheism as a religion should be reason enough not to label it as such.

These things should be self evident, so again, in light of all this, one would have to question your motivations for trying to label atheism as religion.

Oscar Gecko said...

Why is it that "calling atheism religion invokes a false idea?"

PhillyChief said...

Please read the entire comment, not just a selective bit. It's all there.

Oscar Gecko said...

OK. I decided to make a blog post about it. It has different facts, quotes and such, some of which we discussed here.

Oh yeah, I also found an interesting case brought before the US Supreme Courts regarding Atheism and Religion.

If I missed anything, please feel free to leave a post. Or anything you might want to add. I do find our discussions to be fruitful and intelligent. You do have a lot of insight.

Check it out... Is Atheism a Religion?

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