On religion in the public domain

Brian Griffin of Cincinnati Blog has a post primarily bashing Fox News for not being fair and balanced but along the way he takes some awfully broad swipes at religion and public religious displays that I just can’t help but comment on.

Now, first, it is not intolerant to keep religion out of public areas, that is a biased statement. It is intolerant when you feel the need to push your religion on others, just because they don’t comply with your religious code.

I would argue that it is intolerant to keep religion out of public areas. The exclusion of religion from the public arena is simply taking another side in the religious debate. Putting up a big cross, nativity scene, menorah, Star of David or a giant Torah doesn’t push your religion on others because they don’t comply with that religious code. It doesn’t say “join our religion and follow our beliefs or something bad will happen to you” it says “this is a symbol of what we hold dear and we want to share it.” Opposing religious expression is as much a statement of religious beliefs as anything else.

Second, what is wrong with freedom from religion? Why should I have to have my tax dollars go toward anyone else’s religion practices?

What is wrong with freedom from religion?
For starters it is essentially a government endorsement of atheism. When they government isn’t even allowed to say “hey, these beliefs exist” it’s really no better than saying “God doesn’t exist” and the government that is not to endorse any religion is suddenly an atheistic government. And since Atheism is no less a belief system than any religion. Religions believe that there is a god. Atheism believes that there is no god. Both are systems of faith with no real proof to back up either argument.
Secondly a freedom from religion goes against the basic free speech tenets of the First Amendment. We have a right to free speech in this country. There is no right to not be offended. You don’t have a right to go about your life without hearing about the religious beliefs of others. Lord knows I’ve heard plenty about Brian’s anti-religious beliefs. Freedom from religion is a 180 degree turn from freedom of religion. Instead of saying that you have the right to hold whatever beliefs you want and to express them however you like it instead tells you that whatever you believe you are under no circumstances to express these views to anyone. It says “if you choose to believe there is a god you’d better be careful of what you say and where and when you say it.” Ever since 9/11 the Left has been complaining that Americans’ civil rights are being abridged and that they’re being told to watch what they say in public. Whether they’ve actually been told that or not, that is exactly what the idea of freedom from religion does. It makes the religious person a second class citizen that has to hide their beliefs.
Thirdly, whether it’s right or wrong it’s just not in the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Nowhere in there does it say that anybody should be protected from religion. In fact it says exactly the opposite; it says quite clearly that Congress cannot make a law prohibiting the FREE EXERCISE of religion. If you want to run around town yelling “JESUS SAVES!” or “PRAISE BE TO ALLAH!” or even “THERE IS NO GOD!” you’re perfectly welcome to and the First Amendment ensures your right to do it.

What is the purpose of religious displays?

I would say to celebrate the beliefs that those people hold dear. They care for those beliefs so much that they want to share it with others. Nobody’s holding a gun to anybodies head and telling them they must agree.

The purpose and the intent are to promote the religion and gain followers, money and power. Why should certain groups be allowed to do that? I just don’t understand what logical reason there would be to push religion in public areas other than to try and instill a theocracy.

That is the most cynical, contemptuous and derisive explanation I’ve ever heard for it. Brian puts forth a stereotype of the religious that I have just never personally seen to be true. There’s the occasional televangelist and other public blowhard in it for the money and the power but the vast majority of the religious aren’t trying to convert anybody; they aren’t trying simply to get more money or power for their denomination. They do it because their religion is an important part of who they are and they simply want to share what has brought them so much joy, especially with those who already believe as they do. The nativity scenes and menorahs are aimed much more at fellow Christians or Jews than atheists and other non-believers.
It is entirely possible to allow people to freely express their religious beliefs without creating a theocracy. Saying that nobody can express any religious belief doesn’t do that, it simply creates a theocracy in the name of atheism. What we need is a representative expression of everybody’s beliefs. If the Christians want to throw up a nativity during Christmas, let them. If the Jewish want to put up a menorah during Chanukah, let them. If the Muslim want to put up something over Ramadan, let them. If Buddhists want to cart in a giant Buddha for some holiday, let them. If the atheists want to put up a sign right next to these saying “There is no god”, let them.
This nation is founded on the basis of a free exchange of ideas, not on a censoring of one side of the debate. Barring obscenity or a threat to public safety let everybody express their ideas.

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