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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Friday, July 23 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Practical atheism

This summer's supercharged Presidential campaign has been described in columns and magazine essays as one of the most acrimonious ever. One such piece which I linked to my Xnmp site this week quoted a leading pollster as concluding: "We've become two warring nations." I have to wonder if the people who write such pieces have just evolved in their own political journey to the point where they notice how acrimonious politics generally is. There is a reason that people of faith often eschew political involvement or even discussion: Such involvement/discussion bring out the worst in people.

Not me. I've always been one to let my worst hang out. My political prejudices, predilections, and ideals, are the stuff I journalistically glory in.

This campaign has had more to do with "religion" (my favorite topic) in the down-and-dirty sense of the word than many others, too, though Jimmy Carter's campaigns were no less religion-oriented than John F. Kennedy's; and when Pat Robertson was winning Republican primaries that aspect of life wasn't overlooked by the media. But this time we have not just one man's piety (George W. Bush is described as a man of prayer and the Book, even by some of his enemies), we have another candidate's expedient Catholicsm, and claims by many Catholics that his brand of "Sunday-only" Catholicism is an embarrassment not only to them but to the Christ Catholicism aspires to represent, not to mention the thousands who've been martyred for making more convincing confessions of the faith. I've never been Roman Catholic (we Orthodox profess that our communion has better preserved authentic catholicicity, so we have to append that "Roman" when naming the world's biggest denomination)...but despite that, I relate.

This campaign with its religious ramifications has inevitably generated its share of first-time writers of letters to editors on the topics, as probably every campaign does. Everyone who writes has a first time; there's no shame in that, even if it might be embarrassing to read 10-20 years down the road. A lot of the letters I've seen seem to fit this description because it seems their writers have been looking at the interplay of religion and public life—politics—for the first time, without having read more than a single liberal rant on the issue constructed mostly around the pronouncements of what I call The Antichristian, the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

I see letter writers who say "America must keep religion out of government" as having no idea what religion really means and they may be murky on what "America" means or is, as well. Anyone who believes there really is a god (or God) should immediately see there is no keeping Him out of anything, much less the most widespread socially effective "thing" there is, government. Anyone who's peeked into the Old Testament, the world's most complete and authoritative source of information about 3000 years of the interplay between religion and government, knows there's no keeping them apart. Any Christian who has confessed that Christ is "king of kings" would never question whether He should be king of any President they'd want to put in office. And anyone who knows, as is repeated in some mass medium of communication somewhere on the planet every day, that America is the only country in the world more religious than India, would realize how absolutely innane the suggestion that religion and statecraft should be separated is. But such first-time writers keep coming out of their closets.

The question ought to be: what role should my religion play in my politics, not how can we keep religion out of acts of legislative bodies. For anyone who has pondered a minute on the meaning of religion—the highest principle of life, especially life outside the private sector—has to bow before the awesome inescapability of that discovery. To the atheist, religion may be his or her own ingenuity or survival skills. It can be anything from virtue to vice, from liberated spirituality to unbridled carnality, but whatever turns him or her on—whatever makes it worthwhile to get out of bed most mornings—is his or her religion. Or in some cases, it may be that which keeps him or her—or them—from getting out of bed. But I digress.

Those who write that "America is/should be based on separation of church and state," or "freedom from religion" seem to have failed to think through the confession of faith public school pupils all make in third grade, when singing America ("My Country 'Tis of Thee"; fourth stanza):

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With Freedom's holy light,
Protect us by thy might
Great God, our King.

There are many "denominations" in the religion represented in the confession that stanza sings, ranging from the deistic democratism of Thomas Jefferson to the relatively devout orthodoxy of George Washington, even the secularism of Thomas Payne. But those who take it to heart, whether Christian, Unitarian, or anabashed atheist, realizes that the power of it lies in its pointing us beyond ourselves, or bowing ourselves to something greater than ego. Without that defense, we are naked. If our elected leaders have no higher recourse than themselves, their egos, there will be nothing preventing them to doing to us what liberals are already doing to unborn babies at the rate of circa 1.5 million per year. That would be, of course, consigning us to the remainder bin, like Stalin and Hitler did to millions of their subjects because those tyrants were convinced they were the only god the world needed.

The rub is, of course, that we're all practical atheists too much of the time. If I really believed—really believed—in God every moment, I'd be getting closer to Him instead of drifting back into selfish anger and violence, whether physical, verbal, or metaphysical. Only the spiritually indwelt saints have such clarity of vision of God to transcend such human limitations. But that goal of keeping God first remains ever before us.

Even in politics. Especially in politics.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Show Biz

In this business, until you're known as a monster you're not a star.

Bette Davis  

Thought for today

Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.

Sent by Julie Masterson  

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