NPR : Closing the Gap Between Church and State

You know, I try to be tolerant about religion. Really. I do.

I honestly don’t care what religion anybody follows as long as they (a) don’t expect me to believe the same thing and (b) keep it out of politics. That seems to me a quintessentially American attitude.

Well, not to some people, one of whom is D. James Kennedy, who believes that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation” and considers it his mission “to reclaim America for Christ”.

Excuse me? I could maybe feature “reclaiming” America for the Great Spirit or Wakan Tanka or some other largely exiled native deity. As far as I know, though, nobody from Judea ever held prior title to this continent.

Anyway, on May 18th, Kennedy was interviewed by Terri Gross for NPR’s program *Fresh Air*.
Here’s the link. The show runs an hour, but Gross is so good an interviewer it seems much shorter — or would, anyway, if one could keep from boiling over with rage. (I couldn’t.) If you have a broadband connection, slap on the headphones and listen to this. This moron actually has the ear of senators, congresspersons, and probably the Prosthident.

Next time, maybe we’ll talk about Qur’ans, toilets, and “believers” who are so insecure in their faith they think their god can’t withstand a little water damage. (So, in righteous rage stoked by an affront that now appears to be only a rumor, they riot and kill, at last count, seventeen people. Religion brings *so* much comfort to *so* many!)

On second thought, next time maybe we’ll finally talk about *Hard Time – Season 2*.

16 Responses to “NPR : Closing the Gap Between Church and State”

  1. Dave Medinnus Says:

    To his contention that the USA was founded as a “Christian Nation”, I humbly submit the following:

    “I have examined all the known superstitions of the Word, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the world …”

    “The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind … to filch wealth and power to themselves. [They], in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    “The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes; fools and hypocrites. To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    “Accustom a people to believe that priests and clergy can forgive sins … and you will have sins in abundance. I would not dare to dishonor my Creator’s name by [attaching] it to this filthy book [the Bible].”
    Thomas Paine

    “For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is free to combat it.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.”
    Thomas Paine

    “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.”
    Thomas Paine

    “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”
    Thomas Paine

    “Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religions.”
    George Washington

    “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
    George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 726]

    “There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
    George Washington, address to Congress, 8 January, 1790

    “Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.”
    George Washington, letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792

    “…the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction.”
    George Washington, 1789, responding to clergy complaints that the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ, from The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness, Isacc Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore W.W. Norton and Company 101-102

    “If they are good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa or Europe; they may be Mahometans, Jews, Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists….”
    George Washington, to Tench Tighman, March 24, 1784, when asked what type of workman to get for Mount Vernon, from The Washington papers edited by Saul Padover

    “To give opinions unsupported by reasons might appear dogmatical.”
    George Washington, to Alexander Spotswood, November 22, 1798, from The Washington papers edited by Saul Padover

    “…I beg you be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” George Washington, to United Baptists Churches of Virginia, May, 1789 from The Washington papers edited by Saul Padover

    “As the contempt of the religion of a country by ridiculing any of its ceremonies, or affronting its ministers or votaries, has ever been deeply resented, you are to be particularly careful to restrain every officer from such imprudence and folly, and to punish every instance of it. On the other hand, as far as lies in your power, you are to protect and support the free exercise of religion of the country, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the rights of conscience in religious matters, with your utmost influence and authority.”
    George Washington, to Benedict Arnold, September 14, 1775 from The Washington papers edited by Saul Padover

    And we won’t even mention Franklin, the devout Deist (about as close to an Agnostic, for you modernists).

  2. Forrest Says:

    Who’d’ve thought it’d become necessary to save America in order to destroy it?

  3. Jim Brocius Says:

    To be fair, there are many religions fucking up politics in many countries but there is no example of any war fought for religion – although many have used religion as reasoning. Conflicts are not waged over principles or morality. Wars are fought for material gain and no other purpose. Linking war to religion (or anything besides material gain) was, is and always will be subterfuge.

  4. Brian Spence Says:

    To link this post to your last post about science, I was thinking about how the religious fundies are preventing real science from happening in this country. Stem cell research? Nope, can’t do it. Cloning? Uh uh. And we’re trying to get rid of this silly evolution notion that everyone’s talking about.

    Loved your post Dave. A philosophy professor friend of mine sent me some similar quotes. It’s interesting that the common wisdon (even among non-Catholics) is that our country was founded around religious principles. Even though that’s completely to the contrary.

  5. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    One of the major problems with organized religion is that those who run the organization, most of the time, consider the organization more important than the religion. This is what, for example, caused the recent problem with covering up and enabling of child-abusing priests in the Roman Catholic Church. And this is what is the cause of most religiously motivated wars; not the religion, but the organization.

  6. Steve Gerber Says:

    Dave: Wow.

  7. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    Can you explain how stem cell research has been made illegal in this country? How about cloning, other than human cloning?

    Although I do believe that not only is human cloning inevitable, but I believe that there will be a bunch of two-bit dictatorships which will allow creation of human clones as spare parts repositories for billionaires.

  8. Bob Kennedy Says:

    A couple of quick jokes:

    A guy is standing on a ledge, ready to kill himself. Another man sticks his head outside the nearby window.
    “Don’t kill yourself! There’s so much to live for! Are you a Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Muslim?”

    “I’m a Christian.”

    “That’s great! Me too! Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?”


    “Me, too! See, we’re finding common ground already! Vatican II or Latin Mass?”

    “Vatican II!”

    “Vatican II? Jump, you damn heretic!”

    A forthright young woman named Alice
    Once pissed in a Catholic chalice.
    “I did this,” said she,
    “From a great need to pee
    And not from sectarian malice!”
    Three men are sitting on a tenement stoop in Dublin across the street from a well-known brothel. They watch a black Plymouth with tailfins pull up and an Episcopal minister hops out and goes inside the bawdy house.

    “Isn’t that just like the Protestant,” says one of the men. “Gettin’ his ashes hauled the night before a sermon!”

    Next, a black BMW pulls up behind the Plymouth and a Hasidic rabbi hops out and walks into the building. “Ah, there’s a surprise for you!” says the same man. “The Jew rabbi, in unholy embrace!”

    Finally, a black Buick pulls up behind the other two cars and a Catholic priest jumps out and enters the bordello. “A moment of silence, lads,” says the same man across the street. “One of the garls moost’ve died.”
    Three Baptists walk into a bar. The bartender says “Now hold up, fellows. This is a very nasty saloon. There’s drinking going on, smoking, gambling, and probably some sex acts in the back booths.” The Baptists look around and say “Well, as long as there’s no dancing…”

  9. Bob Kennedy Says:

    Stem cell research isn’t illegal; it just can’t receive federal funds. Not a comforting difference, but a difference nonetheless.

  10. Elayne Riggs Says:

    You’re far from alone in your frustration, Steve. I’ve been railing against not only the Christo-fascists but against fellow liberal bloggers who think the idea of one creche more or less on public property isn’t that big a deal. Ex-squeeze me? Someone else pushing their religion in my face without my permission isn’t that big a deal? Have these people never been confronted by a Jesus freak on a subway?

  11. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    So, Elayne, does that mean that you are against freedom of speech and religion?

  12. Elayne Riggs Says:

    Bart, it means I’m against people being generally rude. Your freedom to speak stops when you assault me with it. Your freedom to believe stops when you try to force your belief on me.

  13. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    Depends on your definition of assault. Although, in New York, the courts have determined that the government CAN limit aggressive speech if the audience does not have the physical ability to walk away (for example, in subways).

  14. Sam Champlain Says:

    Discomfort about the theocratical leanings of the United States seems to be disturbing our neighbors too. Check out this post from somebody in Canada.

  15. Brian Spence Says:

    Well, to continue what Dave started, here’s what my philosophy professor friend sent me (I don’t think there’s much overlap, and you can find more at

    John Adams (the second President of the United States)

    Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli (June 7, 1797). Article 11 states: “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

    From a letter to Charles Cushing (October 19, 1756): “Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.’”

    From a letter to Thomas Jefferson:
    “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

    Additional quotes from John Adams:
    “Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?”

    “The Doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”

    “…Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”

    Thomas Jefferson (the third President of the United States)

    Jefferson’s interpretation of the first amendment in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (January 1, 1802):
    “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence
    that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

    From Jefferson’s biography:
    “…an amendment was proposed by inserting the words, ‘Jesus Christ…the holy author of our religion,’ which was rejected ‘By a great majority in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination.’”

    Jefferson’s “The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom”:
    “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry. . . .”

    Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (Query 17, “Religion”):
    “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. . . .”

    “Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these free inquiry must be indulged; how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse ourselves? But every state, says an inquisitor, has established some religion. No two, say I, have established the same. Is this a proof of the infallibility of establishments?”

    Jefferson’s letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823:
    “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

    Additional quotes from Thomas Jefferson:
    “It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”

    “They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition of their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the alter of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

    “In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

    “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear….Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it end in a belief that there is no
    God, you will find incitements to virtue on the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you.”

    “…that our civil rights have no dependence on religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics and geometry.”

    James Madison (the fourth President of the United States)

    Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments:
    “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise….During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”

    Additional quote from James Madison:
    “Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

    Benjamin Franklin

    From Franklin’s autobiography, p. 66:
    “My parents had given me betimes religious impressions, and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself.”

    From Franklin’s autobiography, p. 66:
    “…Some books against Deism fell into my hands….It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quote to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations, in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.”

    Thomas Paine

    From The Age of Reason, pp. 8–9:
    “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of….Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and of my own part, I disbelieve them all.”

    From The Age of Reason:
    “All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

    From The Age of Reason:
    “The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.”

    From The Age of Reason:
    “What is it the Bible teaches us? — rapine, cruelty, and murder.”

    From The Age of Reason:
    “Loving of enemies is another dogma of feigned morality, and has beside no meaning….Those who preach the doctrine of loving their enemies are in general the greatest prosecutors, and they act
    consistently by so doing; for the doctrine is hypocritical, and it is natural that hypocrisy should act the reverse of what it preaches.”

    From The Age of Reason:
    “The Bible was established altogether by the sword, and that in the worst use of it — not to terrify but to extirpate.”

    Additional quote from Thomas Paine:
    “It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible.”

    Ethan Allen

    From Religion of the American Enlightenment:
    “Denominated a Deist, the reality of which I have never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian.”

  16. Leviathan Says:

    Since no-one else has followed your mention of the “flushing the Quran” scandal:

    May I go on the record inviting anybody, anywhere, interrogating anyone, to flush down the toilet any piece or pieces of paper they want to if they think it will help demoralize the interrogatee?

    Seriously: Bible, Torah, I Ching, United States Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, “Howard the Duck” #1 — Honestly. Flush away. When you’re interrogating someone, and the source of their strength to refuse to answer questions is faith — faith of any kind! — I see no-one as having any slightest obligation to be respectful of that faith. I suspect that such overt symbolic attacks on the faith in question may be counterproductive, so I disapprove of them on that level, but I see no moral or ethical problem with it what-so-ever. I have no problem with “us” disrespecting “their” beliefs. I have no problem, either, with “them” disrespecting “our” beliefs.

    The outrage expressed in America over this seems to suggest that we’ev in some sense stepped out of bounds, been unsporting, and are taking away some ethical “level playing field.” Well, war isn’t a sport. I have no interest in giving the other guy a fair chance. I want no level playing field.

    And if flushing a book down the john will get answers before we try shipping the poor shmoe to Saudi Arabia to outsource actual torture, then I say, Stock up on the “Liquid Plumr” and flush away!

    This may make me a trifle unpopular. Oh, well.