Yesterday I argued that atheism is not a religion. Well, theism is not a religion either, but for different reasons. Atheism is not a religion because it amounts to the rejection of the central commitment of anything that could legitimately be called a religion. (So if atheism were a religion, it would amount to a rejection of itself.) This core commitment is the affirmation of the existence of a transcendent reality, whether of a personal or impersonal nature, contact or community or identification with which is the summum bonum and the ultimate purpose of human existence.
Theism is not a religion for at least two reasons.
First, there is no religion in general, only particular religions, and theism is not a particular religion. Theism is merely a proposition common to many different (monotheistic and polytheistic) religions. It is the proposition that God or gods exist. As such, it is simply the negation of the characteristic atheist proposition. No extant religion consists of the theist's bare metaphysical asseveration, and no possible religion could consist of it alone.
Second, both doctrine and practice are essential to a religion, but a theist needn't engage in any specifically theistic practice to be a theist. He need only uphold the theoretical proposition that there is such a being or such beings as God or gods.
If theism is not a religion, then, as Tully Borland suggested to me, it is difficult to see how a reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance could be construed as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The clause reads as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ."
"One nation under God" from the Pledge is at most an affirmation of theism. But theism is not a religion. So the occurrence of the word 'God' in the pledge does nothing to establsh any religion as the state religion. Understandably, atheists don't like that word in the Pledge, but the Establishment Clause gives them no ground for removing it.
Similarly with "In God We Trust" on our currency. This is more than a bare affirmation (or presupposition) of the existence of God; it brings in the further notion of trusting God, a notion that is admittedly religious. But which religion is established by "In God We Trust"? Judaism? Christianity? Islam? All three Abrahamic religions have monotheism in common. Obviously, if Congress were to establish a state religion it would have to be some one particular religion. But no particular religion has proprietary rights in "In God We Trust." So why should we think that the phrase violates the Establishment Clause.
And the same goes for the Ten Commandments as I maintained years ago when I first took to the 'sphere. The Decalogue is common to the three Abrahamic religions. So if a judge posts them in his chambers, which religion is he establishing by so doing?
Once again we see what extremists contemporary iberals are. The plain sense of the Establishment Clause is that there shall be no state religion. One has to torture the Clause to extract from it justification to remove all references to God and every last vestige of religion from the public sphere, a sphere that ever expands under liberal fascism while the private sphere contracts.
I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.
If the Obama Administration whose Attorney General is Eric Holder can get away with killing by drone an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, without owning up to it, what is to stop such a mendacious and power-hungry administration from killing U.S. citizens in the homeland without due process?
Even the shysters of the ACLU and the bunch at The Nation are on the right side of this issue. It would be nice if we could convince the aforementioned crapweasels that it is the Second Amendment that backs up the others, including the Fifth, but they are too morally corrupt and intellectually obtuse for that.
Here's the gun grabbers' slippery-slope agenda, laid out by Nelson T. Shields, founder of Handgun Control Inc.: "We're going to have to take this one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily -- given the political realities -- going to be very modest. ... Right now, though, we'd be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal -- total control of handguns in the United States -- is going to take time. ... The final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition -- except for the military, police, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs and licensed gun collectors -- totally illegal" (The New Yorker, July 1976).
There have been people who've ridiculed the protections afforded by the Second Amendment, asking what chance would citizens have against the military might of the U.S. government. Military might isn't always the deciding factor. Our 1776 War of Independence was against the mightiest nation on the face of the earth -- Great Britain. In Syria, the rebels are making life uncomfortable for the much-better-equipped Syrian regime. Today's Americans are vastly better-armed than our founders, Warsaw Ghetto Jews and Syrian rebels.
There are about 300 million privately held firearms owned by Americans. That's nothing to sneeze at. And notice that the people who support gun control are the very people who want to control and dictate our lives.
It's not about hunting. It's about self-defense. Against whom? First of all, against the criminal element, the same criminal element that liberals coddle. It apparently doesn't occur to liberals that if there were less crime, fewer people would feel a need to arm themsleves. Second, against any political entity, foreign or domestic, substate or state, at any level, that 'goes rogue.' A terrorist organization would be an example of a substate political entity.
You've read George Will and Charles Krauthammer, no doubt, but perhaps you haven't seen the piece by George Weigel in which we find:
I have no special insight into the mind or motivations of the “human author” of the Obamacare majority opinion; Chief Justice Roberts is certainly not God, and Supreme Court decisions are not “revelation.” But just as the insights that come from history and experience can unveil in biblical texts truths that their authors were only dimly aware of (or that they could not imagine in their own time and context), so there may be truths embedded in the chief justice’s opinion that have implications far beyond the Affordable Care Act — truths that could in fact presage the demise of Obamacare and the beginnings of a new national commitment to building the responsible society.
If the former is hopeful, what should we call the piece by Steve McCann in which a series of recent blows to the conservative cause is taken as sealing the fate of the Left?
Rather less of a stretch is the opinion proffered by R. Emmet Tyrrell:
All things considered we conservatives did not come out so badly, which should demonstrate once again how dangerous Obamacare is. Prior to Chief Justice Roberts' juggling actThursday, the conservative majority on the Court was going to bounce Obamacare and the Liberals could continue their noble work of deauthorizing an entire branch of the federal government, the courts. They could smear the Supreme Court as but another locale where crass conservatives play politics. You know how the otherworldly Liberals disdain mere politics! Now Chief Justice Roberts has responded to the better angels of his nature, and the Liberals are applauding. As I have said, Liberalism is dead.
Is there anything to celebrate this Fourth of July? Not much. Maybe there will be cause for celebration in November. But I'm not sanguine about that either. Our founding documents have become merely ornamental. They are interpreted to mean whatever those in power want them to mean.
The Commerce Clause is to be found in Section 8, Article I, of the U. S. Constitution. It reads," The Congress shall have Power to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
Congress, then, has the constitutionally-based power to regulate interstate commerce. But it seems to this concerned citizen -- who is no constitutional scholar -- that one cannot regulate what does not exist. If there is some interstate commerce taking place between, say, California and Arizona, then congress by the above clause has the power to regulate it. But if no commerce is taking place, then there is nothing to regulate. Now if I choose not to purchase health insurance, then my not buying it is surely not a bit of commerce. So there is nothing to regulate, and my non-buying does not fall under the Commerce Clause even if, by some argumentative stretch, the buying of health insurance involves interstate commerce.
Or do you think something can be regulated into existence? Can my buying of health insurance be regulated into existence? The very notion is incoherent.
Ah, but "The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes . . . ." (Section 8) and so all we have to do is call the Obamacare individual mandate a tax, and we get what we want. After all, the PoMo Prez and his enablers can use words to mean whatever they want depending on what promotes their agenda.
The underlying principle here is the lack of any principle limiting governmental expansion. The essence of the totalitarian Left -- and of course the Left is totalitarian by its very nature -- is the lack of any limiting principle. And so, if the individual mandate cannot be rammed through via specious reasoning from the Commerce Clause, then some other justification must be found, however specious and mendacious it may be. Instead of evaluating for constitutionality a law that is presented for evaluation, one can simply rewrite the law, changing the mandate to a tax.
James N. Anderson has a thought-provoking post entitled Ecclesial Activism. A key idea is that the Bible is to the Christian faith as the U. S. constitution is to the U. S. government. And just as judicial activism is a Bad Thing, so is ecclesial activism. The Roman Catholic Church comes in for a drubbing as the main engine of ecclesial activism:
If the Bible didn’t say something something that the bishops wanted it to say, or thought it should say, they could claim to “discover” new doctrines in the Bible — purgatory, indulgences, apostolic succession, papal infallibility, etc. — and no one would have power to overrule them.
Adapting the candid statement of Chief Justice Hughes, today’s Roman Catholic might well put it thus: “We are under the Bible, but the Bible is what the Pope says it is.” In fact, that’s exactly how things stand in practice. Functionally the Pope has become the highest governing authority in his church: higher even than the Bible. The church has been derailed by “ecclesial activism”.
I find it rather ironic then that in recent years a number of politically conservative evangelicals (J. Budziszewski, Francis Beckwith, and Jay Richards are three prominent examples) have swum the Tiber. Presumably they take a dim view of judicial activism. Shouldn’t they be equally averse to ecclesial activism?
When it comes to ecclesiology, Protestants are the true conservatives and the true constitutionalists.
Not being a theologian, I hesitate to comment on Anderson's post. But I'll make a couple of maverick comments. First, if a doctrine of purgatory cannot be found in the Bible, then I would consider that to be a lacuna in the Bible. The doctrine strikes me as not only extremely reasonable but also necessary: at death, almost none of us will be ready for the divine presence, and yet some us will not deserve hell. Therefore . . . .
On the topic of indulgences and papal infallibility, I too find these doctrines untenable if not absurd, but not so much because they cannot be found in the Bible -- assuming that is true -- but for philosophical reasons. The idea that there is an economy of salvation that can be quantified and regulated and administered is the rankest superstition.
So you see my bias: I don't understand sola scriptura and I reserve the right to think for myself. Question: Is the sola scriptura principle itself scripturally based? I apologize if that, to the cognoscenti, is a cheap-shot question.
It is worth noting in passing that it was his inability to accept the doctrine of papal infallibility that was the main cause of Franz Brentano's leaving of the Catholic priesthood, and later, the church. See here.
Asked recently whether SCOTUS would uphold the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) or strike it down as unconstitutional, President Obama replied, "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress." Strong majority? Unprecedented? As a former law professor, Obama must know that what he said was false. Now a false statement is not the same as a lie. For a false statement to be a lie it must be made with the intention to deceive. But since the statement in question is one that one would reasonably expect a former law professor to know is false, then it is reasonable to suspect a lie on Obama's part. Thomas Sowell concludes that "he is simply lying."
James Taranto rather more charitably maintains that "The president is stunningly ignorant about constitutional law."
Peter Wehner in a seeming synthesis of Sowell and Taranto opines that Obama "jumped the shark."
Although O'Donnell comes across as an airhead, she was actually right: there are no such words as "separation of church and state" in the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." Chris Coons got it wrong when he misquoted the clause as "Government shall make no establishment of religion." Not government, but congress. William A. Jacobson explains why this matters Not "make no establishment of religion," but "make no LAW RESPECTING an establishment of religion." In other words, Congress shall not enact any law that sets up any particular religion as the state religion. (But it seems it also can be interpreted to have the further meaning: Congress shall enact no law that disestablishes any particular religion that happens to have been established.)
And another thing. I have never understood why liberals oppose the posting of the Ten Commandments in, say, a judge's chambers. (Well, I do understand why they oppose it; my point is that I can't see that they have a logical or First Amendment leg to stand on.) First, the Decalogue is not specific to Christianity or to the other two Abrahamic faiths: it is precisely common to all three in virtue of its Old Testament provenience. Hence even if its posting could establish a religion as the state religion it would be no particular religion that would be thereby established. Second, and more fundamentally, it is ludicrous to suppose that the mere posting of the Ten Commandments could have the effect of establishing any particular religion as the state religion.
What motivates leftists (and contemporary liberals whose slouch towards leftism leaves them for all practical purposes indistinguishable from the former) is hatred of Judeo-Christian religion, and with, it hatred of the morality that such religion conveys. Note that I wrote 'Judeo-Christian' and not 'Abrahamic.' For it is a bizarre fact about the Left that they are soft on that religion which is uniquely violent and uniquely anti-Enlightenment at the present time, Islam.
Sarah Palin calls the building of this mosque an "unnecessary provocation." As opposed to what, a necessary provocation? But don't let Palin's infelicitous language distract you from the serious point she is making. It is indeed a provocation, and the Islamists are testing us to see how far they can go and to see how weak and supine we are. Will New Yorkers, sophisticated liberal fools that many of them are, put up with this abomination a couple of blocks away from where their fellow citizens died horrible deaths because of a terrorist attack fueled by Islamist ideology?
The fact that the building of this mosque will be perceived as a provocation by a majority is sufficient reason to block its construction. How can its construction do anything to improve relations between decent Muslims and the rest of us?
The first clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the "free exercise" of religion. True. But is Islam a religion? You will say, "of course!" But perhaps you should be a bit more thoughtful. Islam is a political ideology as much as it is a religion, and in this respect it is unlike Buddhism, or Christianity, or Judaism. I have never heard any Jew call for the destruction of any Islamic state. Muslims, however, routinely call for the destruction of the Jewish state. When I lived in Turkey in the mid-nineties I was warned that preaching Christianity there could get one thrown in prison -- not that I was about to do any such thing. And Turkey in those days was a relatively 'enlightened' country compared to the rest of the non-Jewish Middle East.
Muslims aren't very 'liberal,' are they? They are intolerant in their attitudes and their behavior. Now the touchstone of classical liberalism is toleration. Toleration is good, but it has limits. (See the posts in the category Toleration.) So why should we tolerate them when they work to undermine our way of life? The U. S. Constitution is not a suicide pact. We are under no obligation to tolerate the intolerant.
I said above that Islam is as much a political ideology as a religion. That is reflected in the fact that they have nothing like our church-state separation. And please note that church-state separation has a good foundation in the New Testament at Matthew 22: 21: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and to God the the things that are God's." Please point me to the Koranic verse that enshrines the same idea.
Apologists say that Islam is a religion of peace. Now 'peace' may be one of the meanings of Islam, but its dominant meaning is 'submission to the will of Allah as revealed to the propher Muhammad in the Koran.' Let us also not forget that Muhammad was a warrior. Was Jesus a warrior? Buddha? A religion founded by a warrior. An interesting concept, that. Somehow, I am more drawn to a religion whose founder says, "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword."
So here is something to think about. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. But to apply the Amendment, one must raise and answer the logically prior question, What is a religion? I rather doubt that the Founders had Islam in mind when they ensured the right to the free exercise of religion. So we need to ask the question whether Islam counts as a religion in a sufficiently robust sense of the term to justify affording it full First Amendment protection. To the extent that Muslims work to infiltrate and overturn our institutions and way of life, to the extent that they violate church-state separation, to the extent that they demand special privileges and refuse to assimilate, to that extent they remove themselves from any right to First Amendment protection.
Addendum and Corrigendum (7/22)
I made a mistake in the last paragraph that I will now correct. Although the sentence "I rather doubt that the Founders had Islam in mind when they ensured the right to the free exercise of religion" was true when I wrote it, expressing as it did a fact about my mental state, I now see that it is simply false that the Founders did not have Islam in mind. See The Founding Fathers and Islam. I thank Mark Whitten for the correction.
But I do not retract my main point, which is that we ought to give careful thought to the question whether, as I put it above, "Islam counts as a religion in a sufficiently robust sense of the term to justify affording it full First Amendment protection. " I am raising this as a question. So-called liberals, however, being politically correct and therefore opposed to truly open discussion, will no doubt haul out their list of abusive epithets: racist, xenophobe, Islamophobe . . . .
I should point out that 'Islamophobe,' a term employed by the benighted Karen Armstrong, the renegade nun, is a particularly silly expression that only a liberal could love. A phobia is an irrational fear. If you use the word in any other way you are misusing it. Fear of militant Islam is a rational fear. One would hope that Armstrong, a Brit, would have a better grip on the English language. These' -phobe' constructions are a dead giveaway that one is dealing with a PC liberal. Take 'homophobia.' Those who oppose homosexual practices neither fear it nor fear it irrationally. Some have arguments against it. In this case, then, the construction is doubly idiotic. As for 'xenophobe,' that is a real word of English, but our benighted liberal pals seem not to know what it means. It means 'irrational fear of foreigners.' It does not mean 'someone who combats liberal-left nonsense.' As one who has travelled the world and has lived for extended periods in Austria, Germany, and Turkey, I am hardly one who could be called a xenophobe. Someone who opposes the infiltration of his country by militant Muslims is not a xenophobe: his fear is rational and it is directed not at Muslims qua Muslims but at Muslims qua militant subversives.
Over at Gnosis and Noesis, Professor Richard Hennessey rather pedantically and uncharitably picks at my "Muslims aren't very 'liberal,' are they?" Do I mean that no Muslim is liberal? Of course not. A universal proposition can be refuted by a single counterexample. (And it is worth noting en passant that a necessary universal proposition can be refuted by a single merely possible counterexample.) Since it is obviously false that no Muslim is liberal, it is uncharitable to take my sentence as expressing that proposition.
One cannot assume that a sentence of the form Fs are Gs is always elliptical for a sentence of the form All Fs are Gs, or that a sentence of the form Fs are not Gs is always elliptical for a sentence of the form No Fs are Gs. For example, 'Old people go to bed early' would not naturally be taken to mean that all old people go to bed early, which is plainly false, but that most do, or that old people tend to go to be early, or something similar.
Professor Hennessey seems also to be ignoring the context of my remarks, which is the construction of mega-mosque near Ground Zero. That, I submit, is an outrageous provocation, a bit like building a Japanese Shinto shrine in close proximity to the U.S.S. Arizona. (See here.) I don't see how any rational person can fail to see that or fail to see that such a project cannot possibly bring together moderate Muslims and the rest of us. And so it is reasonable to interpret the project as an initiative on the part of militant Muslims to take advantage of our tolerance and naivete in order to spread their religion and culture whose values are antithetic both to the Judeo-Christian tradition and to our Enlightenment values.
So that is the context in which a sentence like "They are intolerant in their attitudes and their behavior" is to be read. The 'they' refers to militant Muslims: Muhammad Atta and the boys, their enablers and supporters, those who flog and stone to death adulterers, those who would would impose Sharia, the clitorectomists, the Muslim fathers who murder their own daughters for adopting Western ways. Our constitution forbids "cruel and unusual punishment." Perhaps Hennessey can point me to the passage in the Koran that does the same. And then there are Muslim taxicab drivers who refuse to pick up blind people with seeing eye dogs because of some lunatic Muslim aversion to dogs. Others won't transport a person who has an alcoholic beverage in a closed container. That sort of fanaticism has no place in America. I could go on, but the point is clear.
Just at the threat to the West in the 20th century was Communism, the threat to the West in the 21st is radical Islam. Both are totalitarian and internationalist. Both are extremely skillful in recruiting young fanatic followers. In one way the threat posed by militant Islam is far more dangerous than that posed by the Commies. The Commies, being atheists and materialists, had a good reason not to deploy their nukes. Muslims have no such reason. (And it seems clear that they will soon be getting nukes thanks to Obama the Appeaser.) They are eager to move on to their crude paradise wherein they will disport endlessly with black-eyed virgins and get to wallow in the sensuousness that is forbidden them here.
For more on this delightful topic, see my Islamism category.
Rhode Island is already doing what Arizona is fixin' to do come the end of this month. As William A. Jacobson, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, reports over at Legal Insurrection, ". . . Rhode Island already has implemented the critical piece of the Arizona law [S.B. 1070], checking the immigration status of people stopped for traffic violations where there is a reasonable suspicion, and reporting all illegals to federal authorities for deportation."
Will Eric Holder and colleagues at the DOJ be going after Rhode Island? If not, why not? I'm not legally trained, but isn't there supposed to be something wrong with selective enforcement? Isn't there something objectionable about suing Arizona for a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U. S. Constitution while turning a blind eye to Rhode Island, not to mention those sanctuary cities such as Los Angeles which are, because of their sanctuary laws, really in violation of the Clause in question?
One gets the impression that the reasons adduced in the complaint are just a smokescreen to hide venal and 'political' motives. A need to curry favor with Hispanics in order to stay in office? A desire to flood the country with potential Democrats so as to secure a permanent victory for the Left?
Actually, the latter is what this is all about to anyone astute enough to penetrate the thick veil of liberal-left mendacity. Obama and the boys have no desire to control the border or solve the problem of illegal immigration. This is why they mouth and hide behind the vacuous phrase 'comprehensive immigation reform.' Like 'change,' it means nothing definite. To them, that is a virtue allowing as it does for maximal obfuscation.