Category Archives: Christians

Seven decade tug-of-war between organized religion and the 1st Amendment

Nobody paid a lot of attention to issues of the ‘Separation of Church and State’ between Reynolds v. the United States in 1789 [upholding federal bigamy laws], and Everson v. The Board of Education, 1947 ruling it was okay for Catholic parents to be reimbursed for sending their kids to Catholic schools on buses, same as for public school kids using buses.

Those of us who attended public schools prior to Engels v. Vitale in 1962 managed to survive prayers coming over the intercom each morning without any permanent damage and the only eyebrows raised were in response to boredom.   In one school I attended, popular kids were selected each day to give the prayers and they seemed to compete with one another to add dramatic emphasis, but generally I’d count it all harmless.

Around that time Madalyn Murray O’Hair entered the picture and atheists became militant and vocal.   Maybe it was something in the water.    The Murray v. Curlett Supreme Court decision in 1963 ending religious study in public schools became a harbinger for a long series of religion versus state legal battles.

Maybe it was the times…. the fact is, a person declaring himself to be an atheist prior to the 1960s would have been asking for all manner of difficulties.   My granddad got a visit from the FBI out on his hardscrabble farm around 1953, because one of his neighbors reported he was an ‘atheistic Communist’.   In those times that was serious invective indeed.

But though I’ve spent almost all my adult life not subscribing to any organized religion, which in some circles damns me as an atheist, I’ve often thought the church/state religious battles that emerged to the US Supreme Court were mostly petty embarrassments.     If those were the worst infringements accusers could come up with insofar as the separation of church and state, it would have been better left alone than hold them up as evidence atheists were a lot of nit-picking whiners about nothing.

But that’s roughly what we’re left with.    Lawsuits filed, court time wasted about nativity scenes on courthouse lawns and plaques containing the Ten Commandments.

Ironically, now we see the Christian fundamentalists trying to establish a foothold as a state religion to protect the US from Islamics and scary Sharia Law.    While splinter groups of Mormons drift back into polygamy and assortments of Asian religious establishments creep into suburbia.

Keeping in mind that no legal battle arrives at the door of SCOTUS until it’s been through lower courts and appeal courts.    So the list below really doesn’t convey just how much legal time and money has found its way into the pockets of lawyers as a consequence of the determination of people who don’t want religion anywhere in their lives, and those who want their own religion to be implied as valid by display at public expense:

U.S. Supreme Court Decisions
(arranged by date)

Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879)

Court finds that the federal antibigamy statute does not violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947)

Court finds that a New Jersey law which included students of Catholic schools in reimbursements to parents who sent their children to school on buses operated by the public transportation system does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

McCollum v. Board of Education Dist. 71, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)

Court finds religious instruction in public schools a violation of the establishment clause and therefore unconstitutional.

Burstyn v. Wilson, 72 S. Ct. 777 (1952)

Government may not censor a motion picture because it is offensive to religious beliefs.

Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961)

Court holds that the state of Maryland cannot require applicants for public office to swear that they believed in the existence of God. The court unanimously rules that a religious test violates the Establishment Clause.

Engel v. Vitale, 82 S. Ct. 1261 (1962)

Any kind of prayer, composed by public school districts, even nondenominational prayer, is unconstitutional government sponsorship of religion.

Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963)

Court finds Bible reading over school intercom unconstitutional and Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) – Court finds forcing a child to participate in Bible reading and prayer unconstitutional.

Epperson v. Arkansas, 89 S. Ct. 266 (1968)

State statue banning teaching of evolution is unconstitutional. A state cannot alter any element in a course of study in order to promote a religious point of view. A state’s attempt to hide behind a nonreligious motivation will not be given credence unless that state can show a secular reason as the foundation for its actions.

Lemon v. Kurtzman, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971)

Established the three part test for determining if an action of government violates First Amendment’s separation of church and state:
1) the government action must have a secular purpose;
2) its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion;
3) there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.

Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980)

Court finds posting of the Ten Commandments in schools unconstitutional.

Wallace v. Jaffree, 105 S. Ct. 2479 (1985)

State’s moment of silence at public school statute is unconstitutional where legislative record reveals that motivation for statute was the encouragement of prayer. Court majority silent on whether “pure” moment of silence scheme, with no bias in favor of prayer or any other mental process, would be constitutional.

Edwards v. Aquillard, 107 S. Ct. 2573 (1987)

Unconstitutional for state to require teaching of “creation science” in all instances in which evolution is taught. Statute had a clear religious motivation.

Allegheny County v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989)

Court finds that a nativity scene displayed inside a government building violates the Establishment Clause.

Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649 (1992)

Unconstitutional for a school district to provide any clergy to perform nondenominational prayer at elementary or secondary school graduation. It involves government sponsorship of worship. Court majority was particularly concerned about psychological coercion to which children, as opposed to adults, would be subjected, by having prayers that may violate their beliefs recited at their graduation ceremonies.

Church of Lukumi Babalu Ave., Inc. v. Hialeah, 113 S. Ct. 2217 (1993)

City’s ban on killing animals for religious sacrifices, while allowing sport killing and hunting, was unconstitutional discrimination against the Santeria religion.

https://infidels.org/library/modern/church-state/decisions.html

If you believe this isn’t over yet, you are probably correct.   Because even though religious affiliation in the US is evidently dropping somewhat rapidly, the strength of the fundamentalist right, the Latter Day Saints, the Jews, and the Islamics is gaining, rather than losing momentum.

There’s cause to suspect we’ll see at least another half century before any of the parties involved are powerless.    It’s a crapshoot who will be the last man standing.

Old Jules

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Two rich men and the eye of a needle – Philosophy by limerick

Mark 10:25 – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Some things don’t need to be said
And a jet plane can mess with your head
Oxygen deprivation
While preaching salvation
Makes camels appear to be thread.

Old Jules

Disturbing insights

This ignorant cracker entered the US Army in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis [when the Berlin Wall went up]. Given the similarities of patriotic rhetoric between countries he’d as happily taken the orders of an Adolph Hitler as John Kennedy.

Yesterday I was down at the laundromat, which was a bit crowded with the lower-end of the socioeconomic scale of Leavenworth, Kansas.   But because of the time of day, most were senior citizens or younger wives with kiddos.   Several old Vietnam era vets and a couple of granny-ladies.

When it’s that crowded in the place it forces people to become social instead of just staring at the clothing tumbling in their washers or dryers.   And when strangers discuss anything these days it will be sports, television, politics, or Muslims, for the most part.   Some of which inevitably leads to confessions of some nasty hatreds and deep biases.

I was a bit shocked when the discussion centered almost entirely on the president and the enthusiasm shared among the ones who were vocal on the subject.    These people, senior citizens who obviously rely on Social Security pensions and Medicare, are still devoted and determined to to see this president and the Congress with intentions to destroy their Medicare and Social Security remain in office.   Increase their power.

I’ll confess to have been quietly dumbfounded.   They sneered at the class of people who are openly critical or have doubts about the prez and the Congress that’s likely to put them out on the streets cold an hungry.  And the old vets were noisy about the opposition being expressed in some quarters to a proposed military parade somewhere.   Which I couldn’t care less about one way or the other.

But I’ve digressed somewhat.    All that got me remembering, wondering just what sort of people we veterans are, on the whole.   Obviously we aren’t deep thinkers.    And while many spout patriotic rhetoric and indignation, as nearly as I can tell most have remained the ignorant crackers most of us were back when we entered the military 50 years or so ago.

But what’s more disturbing than our lack of growth and acquired wisdom over the decades, is the fact so many of us evidently are using our stupidity as a launchpad for active participation in the political process.

To demolish our own livelihood.

Figure that one out.

Old Jules

Who gets to go to heaven? The Christian Dilemma.

sundaybest

Growing up in a small southwestern town with a church on every corner circa 1950s leaves a lot of room for religious confusion. We had our First Baptists, our Calvary Baptists a block away,our Church of Christ, our Church of God, our Seventh Day Adventists, our Methodists, our Presbyterians, and our Mexican Church….Catholics. I’m reasonably sure there were others scattered around that I don’t remember.

I do recall something of a family crisis when my oldest sister went with a friend to a ‘holy roller’ church. Traumatized the hell out of her, and she got baptized all in one fell swoop. I’ve often thought that might have been a piece of what led her to being the goody-two-shoes tattletale teachers pet holier-than-thou hypocrite she was all the remainder of her life I knew her.

But I’ve digressed.

My mother and step-dad were married in 1948 in the Church of Christ. So as a pre-schooler I went to Vacation Bible School there. Then, for reasons I never knew, we changed to the Calvary Baptist Church a while. Then the First Baptist Church. I never felt comfortable in either of those Baptist churches. They’d pass around grape juice and crackers that made my mouth water, but I never got any. I wasn’t baptized.

Then there came a day when I was in the fourth grade when my parents decided they wanted to change again and become Presbyterians. There came a knock on the door and Brother Doyle, preacher for the Baptists asked if he could come in.

“No I don’t want to sit.” The veins were bulging out of his scarlet face. “What’s this about you leaving the church?”

My mom explained quietly, and Brother Doyle began to shout and pace around the living room. Eventually my mom asked him to leave, but he just got louder, waving his arms around. “I WON’T SEE you there! You and your family will burn in HELL!”

I was unsettled watching all this, but my mom got angry and demanded he leave. “I won’t be seeing you there!” He kept shouting.

So my mom picked up the phone and dialed my step-dad at work. Explained it all while Brother Doyle kept stomping around, pointing at me, waving is arms around, veins bulging out all over his face.

Until Charlie, my step-dad arrived and told him to get the hell out.

Presbyterians seemed fairly low-key by comparison. No fire in their bellies. When they baptized people they just sprinkled a little water on their heads quietly. But of course, deep down, I knew those Presbyterians weren’t ever getting into heaven with that sort of wimpy foolishness going on.

So you can see, I had a lot of exposure to religion in my life. But I never got Baptized, and eventually I came to know I was sure as hell not a Christian.

I’d rather spend eternity in hell than in heaven with Brother Doyle and his ilk.

But of course, I don’t happen to believe in hell. Though I count myself a spiritual and to the extent I’m able, a righteous man.

Maybe I’ll write some more about this sometime.

Old Jules

Good solid evil just isn’t that easy to come by

chaos
This was a follow-up to the post about the old guy wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap so’s to try to get people to listen to him talk about his Satanist religion. This was posted October 1, 2013.

Hi readers.

The old Satanist wearing the Vietnam Veteran cap I wrote about a couple of weeks ago was at the coin laundry again. He was telling me the difference between Satanists and devil worshipers, which he isn’t one of, he says.

“Even the devil worshipers,” he explained, “Just aren’t all that evil. They try, but it’s mostly just waving a bloody shirt at it.”

“Devil worshipers try but can’t pull it off?” Me, thinking this over.

“That’s right. You’d think there’d be plenty of evil for them to get into, but the really evil people don’t want anything to do with them. Not even the somewhat evil people, Catholics, Jews, Baptists and Muslims. They find out a person’s a devil worshiper they think poorly of him. Even when they’re jumping the hurdles for award-winning evil.”

Shaking my head. “I never knew that. You’d think especially Catholics and Zionists and Muslims would open their arms and their hearts to honest-to-goodness no-shit devil worshipers. Why is that, do you think?”

He shook his head, too. “I don’t know why it is. I’m not a devil worshiper and I’m not any of those others. I’m just a Satanist trying to get through life as best I can. But if I wanted to be really evil I’d have one hell of a time managing to do it. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Old Jules

Oh wisdom, where is your sting?

mr midnight 3

Hi readers.    Thanks for the visit.

Let’s be honest for once.     We’ve spent our entire lives believing that at any given moment we were insightful, wise, generally smarter than the people around us of all ages.     We’ve always been able to look backward at the people we were a decade ago, several decades ago, and recognize our younger folly, know we were wrong back then when we believed we were wise.

But we never manage to take the next step of reasoning or realization to recognize what applies to ourselves in the past still applies.    Yes, even as then, when we believed wrongly in our wisdom, our ‘rightness’, probably a decade from now we’ll again view ourselves more realistically.

So why does this matter?    Because today, more than any time in my lifetime, the population of this country is polarized…. politically, economically, socially, even by age, and our certainties about all sorts of issues drive irreconcilable wedges constantly deeper between us.    A huge, vocal piece of the US population has a death grip on one or another set of beliefs so deliberately diametrically opposed to  non-believers, other viewpoints, that there’s no room left for a loyal opposition.

This is comparatively new…….. I personally believe it is a consequence of a lot of phenomena not the least of which is talk radio on the one side, and television on the other.

Does anyone really believe this country can long survive the kind of scorn and hatred the factions of the population riding one ideology or another, spewing accusations and buzzword defamation at one another?

I personally do not.    I believe that that this divisiveness being constantly solidified and enlarged within the population and electorate is conscious and deliberate.   But I suspect those behind it don’t possess any more reliable wisdom than the rest of us.   And the ability of human beings to prognosticate accurately is no better now than it was the day the Germans invaded Poland, or the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The day LBJ announced the Gulf of Tonkin incident knowing it was false.   The day the Watergate burglars brought down a presidency.   Ad infinitum.

The simple fact is, despite the fact somewhere human beings are capable of designing and manufacturing automobiles, computers, digitized cameras, put men into space, build skyscrapers and drill holes miles deep,  none of us are all that smart.   Almost none of us can do any of those things, nor much of anything else.   Somewhere else, someone else does those things.    Mostly we just shuffle papers, lay carpets, hang sheetrock, sell things to one another, flip hamburgers, do things with money.

But somehow it doesn’t exempt us from believing we, individually [and probably collectively] are smarter than the leaders of Japan when they decided to attack Pearl Harbor.  Or smarter than Lyndon Johnson when he decided to announce to the world that US warships had been attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Know why?   Here’s a hint:    The reason we believe we are smarter than LBJ or the rulers of Japan in 1941 is not the product of our individual wisdom.

Thanks for coming by for a read.

Old Jules

Middle Easterners don’t respect human life the way we do

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Probably there’s no other conclusion to reach:  Middle Easterners don’t like other people as much as we do.

  • You’ve got all those wossname, Kurds having whatever is happening to them, or doing something to someone else.
  • You’ve got Israel doing a slick ethnic cleansing and land-grabbing against their cousins in neighboring Palestine.
  • You’ve got Sufis killing someone somewhere, Sunnis killing other people somewhere else, and you’ve got Shiites squeezing into the act killing someone else, possibly Sufis or Sunnis.
  • And now you’ve got women in Syria being stoned [with rocks, not marijuana] for adultery.
  • You’ve got the lot of them sneaking around killing, discriminating, not liking Christians when they aren’t killing someone else.

But of course those people don’t believe in the Bible.  They never learned to stay home and peacefully mind their own business, relax about human diversity, and forgive others for being different from themselves.  They never learned not to get too worked up about having a lot of extra possessions, big houses, gewgaws, cars and cosmetic surgery.

And guns.  They have too many guns.  Where the hell do they get all those guns?  Those people in the Middle East have more guns and rockets than we have IPODs and SUVs.  Especially the ones who are trying to be like us.

In countries over there where they’re not all Mexicans the white people try hard to be like us.  Israel is a good example.  But although they’re simple, God fearing folks, they aren’t Christians.  They don’t believe in the Bible.  So they can’t understand they need to quit slaughtering their neighbors and stealing their land.  They’d like to be like real white people, but they can’t get it right.  And that’s just Israel.  A few miles in any direction the places are full of Mexicans who aren’t even trying to be like white people.

Old Jules