The Disappearing of Religion

The Disappearing of Religion
In journalism “burying the lede” means hiding the main or most important point among distracting details.

When the Founding Fathers discussed creating the Bill of Rights amendments to the Constitution one of the arguments against doing so was that there were many natural rights belonging to the people, that these were so obvious to all concerned that they didn’t need naming, and that naming only a few might lead future generations to infer there were no more rights than those named. So here we are 230 some years later and we are barely hanging onto those few that were named. In hind sight, I’m certainly glad some rights were named. Otherwise the most tyrannical among us would claim we have none at all. But that’s another topic.

Today I want to speak briefly about religious freedom. The first amendment starts in strong on religion. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Two simple ideas — no government law allowed to favor or force one religion on the people, and no government law prohibiting people from freely practicing their religion. Easy-peasy, or so the Founding Fathers must have thought. If there be one flaw those men might have had, it was underestimating how stupid people could possibly be.

In recent news, the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing a high school coach to pray briefly out in public, where people might actually see him. A second ruling allows religiously affiliated schools equal access to federal grants for education. The former was a much needed nod to the idea of freedom to practice, the latter to fair treatment of parochial schools by the government. I don’t want to minimize their importance, but both rulings were relatively minor concessions to the true intent of the first amendment. However, in the severely anti-religious times we live, both rulings were received by those who value freedom of religion like the discovery of a fresh water spring in the middle of a scorching desert.

The battle is far from over. Others were not nearly as pleased. Here are some of the comments from those offended by the rulings:
“This is a complete erosion of a bedrock of American democracy.” Another said, “It opens the door to much more coercive prayer in our public schools.” And, “The football field is for playing, not for forcing religion on children. This decision potentially harms our youth.” Not to be outdone, one distraught fellow said, “It is the end of democracy as we know it.”
Even the dissenting Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor wrote, “The Court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing States to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”

You would have thought that the Supreme Court had recommended stonings or beheadings for all non-believers. So what gives?

That brings me to the buried lede:
How did we get to a place where the government has banned prayer in school, ordered crosses and religious sayings removed from official buildings, and deleted any reference to God from government proceedings and documents? The ACLU was once a champion of civil liberty. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Now they uniformly fight to eliminate all religious expression from the public square. How is this possible? This is not communist China where 100 million Falun Gong members are oppressed to the point where thousands of them are murdered for their organs, and the Muslim Uyghurs live in contained ghettos and are forced into slave labor. This is America. So how is this possible? It became possible when we reached the point where no one being offended is more important than anyone being free. You don’t remember that from the Declaration of Independence — the inalienable right to never be offended? That’s because it isn’t there.

So why is there such hostility toward religion? Because religion is considered controversial? Of course it’s controversial. That’s why religion was the first freedom the Founding Fathers thought to protect when they wrote the Bill of Rights. They knew it was controversial. So is politics. What are the two things you’re not supposed to discuss at family holiday dinners? Religion and politics.

Let’s face it. Life is controversial. People are different. People disagree. If you are living life at all you can’t help but be offended on a regular basis. So what? That’s life. Of course, we could legislate that no one be allowed to speak in the public square, ever. That would certainly eliminate all offense, right? But I don’t think THAT life would be good for anyone.

A common argument made for exterminating religion is that not everyone believes in God. Atheists certainly don’t. Others don’t like religion. Secular humanists don’t. Materialists like Marxists don’t. They might be offended, so religion must go.

Here’s the practical problem with that plan. Since atheists and secular humanists and materialists don’t advocate a clear-cut religion, the views they do push are allowed and in many cases encouraged. That’s how we get drag queen story time for kids in kindergarten, and pick your gender day, but we can’t say a simple prayer.

I read a brilliant article by John Staddon, a professor emeritus at Duke University, that explains this obvious tilt. It is from the preface of his book, Science in an Age of Unreason. He points out that the secular and atheist sociological viewpoints that are pushed in schools are just as much belief systems as any religious viewpoints. They are certainly not science.

There are actual facts and that is where you find science. Chemistry, physics and mathematics are sciences. Provable, repeatable facts. Ideas like critical race theory and 47 genders are not science. There are areas of study that are not currently knowable. Where someone believes life ultimately comes from is not settled science. It is a belief. Whether you believe God did it or the cosmic bang did it, it is still just a belief. It is not provable; it is not disprovable. That, by definition, is a belief system.

David Hume, a rock star philosopher from the Enlightenment period and a man smarter than most of us, called it the is and the ought. What is, things that can be observed and tested, and the ought, how men think things ought to be. Fact vs. faith. Whenever decisive science is impossible, other factors dominate. Weak science lets slip the dogs of unreason.

Most people put a sharp divide between science and religion. If it is religious it can’t be science. If it isn’t religious it must be science. That’s a false dichotomy. According to Staddon, many social scientists have difficulty separating facts from faith, reality from the way they would like things to be. When that happens, supposedly scientific conclusions increasingly reflect ideological predispositions, not solid, provable science. Sociology has squirreled off into more than 100 subspecialties. Each has their own journals and reviewing standards and they have developed their own jargon. Together, these things gravely limit criticism, which is the lifeblood of science.

Because the secular side mentions no God or no formal religion, it gets a free pass into the schools. That does not make it fact or science. A University of Pennsylvania professor can declare that homeschooling is actually white supremacy and racism in disguise and get a spot on prime time TV. CRT is put into the school curriculum. A major newspaper can promote the rabidly anti-American 1619 project and win its author a Pulitzer prize, despite the entire premise being debunked. And our kids must study anti-racism and either be victims or apologize for their whiteness. Segregation and discrimination become the new equality. But a coach says a quiet prayer and he gets fired. Anything religious gets turned away at the door.

The only way out of this trap is the first amendment protection of religious expression and practice as well as free speech. And the tolerance that the left claims they want will develop when children are exposed to the wide variety of different views that exist in the real world.

Ed Thompson

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