The Sciences

Freedom for, of, and from religion

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitNov 12, 2007 4:52 AM


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The first official day of the meeting for the Americans United for Separation of Church and State has drawn to a close, and it's been excellent. AU invited several bloggers to this meeting in an effort to help people understand what the organization is all about. We talked about grassroots activism to start off, and later we had a get together of bloggers (more on that in a later post) and ended with a really good talk from the Reverend Barry Lynn, who is the head of AU, and his trials with getting people to understand why keeping religion and government separate is so critical to our democracy. Perhaps it's ironic that the meeting began on a Sunday, but there you go. It's certainly appropriate. It wasn't a conscious decision to thumb a nose at religion... and oddly, that's not even the real irony. The actual irony is that AU is a group that does not fight against religion. It ensures the freedom of religion by making sure that no one uses religion to legislate or to enforce their own beliefs on others. And despite the cries of the far right, this does not protect just the nonreligious! The counterexample isn't hard to imagine. Suppose Muslims started increasing their citizenship numbers (through immigration, having lots of kids, or conversion) until they got a majority in 2/3 3/4 of the states. They could then amend the U.S. Constitution to override the First Amendment, and thus legislate anti-Christian rules. How do you think the average fundamentalist or evangelist would react to such an event? The AU would be their very best friend. The Constitution was written to preserve the rights of the minority. The AU fights for this very thing. There is no difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion, except for point of view. What is "of" for you is "from" for me. But what's "of" for me is "from" for you! The idea that some people complain that AU and ACLU and others fight for freedom "from" religion is a distraction and, more forthrightly, a lie. They want freedom for their own religion, but don't they also want freedom from another? So let's put this another way: having said this, what groups would be opposed to what the AU does? The only group I can think of that would fight this would be one that wants to initiate theocratic rule over you, because they want their religion to be the only one used on which to base society, and from which to legislate laws. This is a fundamentally anti-American stance. They don't want freedom for religion -- they want freedom for their religion. AU fights for everyone. Thats why I support them.

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