Blasphemy In Our Agnostic Nation

Religious beliefs and our rights of free expression to criticize those beliefs are on my mind lately with the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Fanatical believers tried to enforce religious blasphemy laws with their own hands in countries that don’t have those laws in their government.

I watched with interest as devout Christians in the US supported the right to be blasphemous against Islam even though the same people have cried about the need to restrict free speech when their beliefs were criticized or mocked. Some examples are in this Salon article about 5 times the right flipped out over blasphemous depictions of Christianity.

all great truths begin as blasphemies

Those Christians often try to claim the USA as a Christian Nation despite our clearly secular government. We even have Mike Huckabee claiming the country has become a secular theocracy which he needs to fight. The argument for a Christian Nation usually centers on the beliefs of the founding fathers and the majority of our citizens regardless of what was actually codified in the constitution and laws. It shouldn’t be disputable, but Huckabee claims our country’s laws (from and for the people) are actually the natural laws of his jealous God who demands no other gods before him. No thank you!

The “nation” isn’t actually secular. We have an awful lot of individual religiosity permeating our communities while our government and laws are supposed to remain neutral. We can’t ignore this fact in the unbelieving minority. The laws clearly allow us to not believe as the majority does while they also allow for the free exercise of religions by individuals and groups. This causes much confusion in government and the public square as we balance an overall freedom of religion with individual freedoms to do as they wish while not being forced to go along with other beliefs or disbeliefs.

Mike Huckabee’s call for a God-centered nation with God-given laws is equivalent to Muslim desires for Sharia law. It’s sad that so many Christians don’t see that purely biblical law has no place in our free and democratic society even though they’re free to use it in their churches. They can ban birth control and gay marriage in their church but they should quit trying to push those religious-based rules on the country.

Democracy isn’t compatible with any type of theocracy and that includes Huckabee’s invention of a secular theocracy. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean every public square should be devoid of religious expression. The public square is for the use of the public to come together as communities and hopefully celebrate their differences. Like it or not, a variety of religious expression is a part of being an American and that includes our non-Christian religions and non-religious lack of beliefs.

Tax dollars shouldn’t be directly funneled to support any of these viewpoints. The right model is the town square that allows a variety of privately funded holiday displays. Street parades should be allowed for veterans, ethnic pride, gay pride, Christian pride, science, and everything else we can celebrate in this country! Banning all viewpoints to promote a sterile unbiased secular government is un-American.

In belief or disbelief, we should all be able to honestly agree that nobody truly knows. Nothing on the belief scale rises to the standard of knowledge. If everyone else can claim what type of nation we are then I can propose the most inclusive label. I see the United States as an Agnostic Nation with a secular government full of agnostic theists and agnostic atheists. Let’s have so much religious freedom that we all remain free to believe in ways that are blasphemous against other religions just as our neighbors are free to be blasphemous against our beliefs and disbeliefs.

The Muslim and Mike Huckabee alternatives to our blasphemous freedoms could take our nation to a theocratic society that’s simply too scary to imagine. Yes, Christians, a Christian Nation would be a terrible thing. All you have to do is pick a denomination you disagree with (Catholic? Mormon?) and imagine their religious leaders telling you how to live your life. Would you really want that?

US Air Force Forcing Atheist to say “So Help Me God”

USAF Enlistment Oath
USAF Enlistment Oath

This is the oath of enlistment for the United States Air Force as presented on the Air Force recruiting website. The Air Force recently “corrected” the required oath to align with Title 10 of the United States Code (USC), which is public law written by Congress. You can read more about this at several Air Force Times articles: Atheist airman must swear ‘so help me God’ or get out in November (9 Sep 2014) and Air Force stands alone in requiring atheists to say ‘so help me God’ (10 Sep 2014).

The General Counsel at the DoD level is reviewing the matter and I’m sure they’ll have to reverse this back to an optional requirement. It violates the constitutional prohibition on religious tests as well as other laws in the USC concerning discriminatory hiring practices based on a person’s religion. The laws of the US are as imperfect and conflicted as the people that wrote them. Hmm, that sounds like another set of writings I struggled with as a child.

God should be optional in the oath and nobody should be forced to say it. God signifies a singular deity so this doesn’t work with several religions and obviously doesn’t work with the lack of religion. A real irony of this oath situation is it serves as a perfect example of how the US isn’t an exclusively Christian nation even though a majority of it’s citizens are Christian.

The oath doesn’t function with god in it and it makes the oath internally inconsistent. I swear to support and defend the Constitution which includes the freedom of religion. I can write tons about the superiority of the Bill of Rights over the 10 Commandments including the first amendment trumping the first commandment. Freedom of religion is superior to the command to not have any other gods before the jealous Judeo-Christian god. Oh wait, the defenders of the “so help me God” phrase say it isn’t that specific god. Well, if the oath god isn’t that God then the phrase is non-specific and unnecessary as a mandatory statement. It still wouldn’t jive with an overall freedom of religion we guarantee ourselves in our Constitution. The first amendment is obviously not derived from biblical origins because it defies the bible’s first commandment. Which one do you want to keep?

I don’t bring much of my personal life into what is really a personal blog here, but this story hits home for me. I’m retired Air Force and started this blog while on active duty as my own little non-religious outlet on the Internet. My dog tags evolved from an initial enlistment where I said “I guess so” for putting Roman Catholic as my religion. I just couldn’t think of an alternative at that time to my family’s religion and didn’t give it any thought. Later, as I began to explore religions, I switched to “No Religious Preference” until I finally settled on and requested Atheist. Soon after that I switched to the more accurate Agnostic and that’s what my record said when I retired. I see myself as an atheistic agnostic with emphasis on the agnostic side of the non-religious belief/knowledge coin.

I never had any issues in the military and flew well under the radar with my lack of religion. Only the few personnelists recording my preference and making my dog tags really knew and they didn’t say anything about it. When it came to taking the oath, I would say “so help me god” or not depending on if I could just quietly slip out of it in a private ceremony. I trusted the few officers that gave me a godless oath and they didn’t have a problem with it. I have said the phrase when the ceremony was more public just to not draw attention to myself. Personally, I had no issue with playing along because it had the same impact on my oath as “so help me Santa Claus” would have on it. I just didn’t feel strongly enough to publicly fight it even though I fully support others that do.

I never bowed my head in prayer during group events and nobody had an issue with it. They weren’t paying attention to me anyway and it was only other nonbelievers that ever noticed me with a knowing wink and a smile. Trust me, there are plenty of us around just quietly standing by as people exercise their freedom of religion. We’re not all out to stop the faithful from believing in an unproven supernatural deity even though we don’t want to join in their godly games.

This is to the people that would try to force us to take an oath to a god we don’t believe in. Why can’t you just make it optional and extend us the same courtesy we give you to leave it in as an option? The oath with an optional ending is really what freedom of religion looks like. We could even go one step further and change it to “Optional: So help me, —insert deity/deities here—” Now wouldn’t that really be freedom of religion?

Liberty and Religions

The country of my birth talks a lot about liberty and freedom and we’re approaching our Independence Day on July 4th. This has me thinking a little about our liberties. Simply put, liberty is our freedom to have control over our own actions and take responsibility for our actions. I say we must take responsibility for our actions because sometimes people want to push their responsibilities off on imaginary friends. I see liberty as the gift we give each other when we value our own individual lives. Liberty isn’t something granted to our existence through the kindness of a god as our master. Robert Ingersoll said this of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin in one of his most popular lectures, titled Individuality:

They knew that to put God in the Constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. They knew the terrible history of the church too well to place in her keeping, or in the keeping of her God, the sacred rights of man. They intended that all should have the right to worship, or not to worship; that our laws should make no distinction on account of creed. They intended to found and frame a government for man, and for man alone. They wished to preserve the individuality and liberty of all; to prevent the few from governing the many, and the many from persecuting and destroying the few.

Ingersoll provided two different ways to live with many example contrasts for the natural or supernatural in his lecture Which Way? He spoke of people depriving others liberty when they lack the courage to enjoy their human rights. When you put yourself under the yoke and command of religion then you see no problem with turning others into servants as well to further justify your subservience.

One way is to be an honest man, giving to others your thought, standing erect, intrepid, careless of phantoms and hells.

The other way is to cringe and crawl, to betray your nobler self and to deprive others of the liberty that you have not the courage to enjoy.

Ingersoll said liberty was his religion in his lecture called About The Holy Bible where he speaks about the people that believe in the Bible.

They forget its ignorance and savagery, its hatred of liberty, its religious persecution; they remember heaven, but they forget the dungeon of eternal pain. They forget that it imprisons the brain and corrupts the heart. They forget that it is the enemy of intellectual freedom. Liberty is my religion. Liberty of hand and brain — of thought and labor, liberty is a word hated by kings — loathed by popes. It is a word that shatters thrones and altars — that leaves the crowned without subjects, and the outstretched hand of superstition without alms. Liberty is the blossom and fruit of justice — the perfume of mercy. Liberty is the seed and soil, the air and light, the dew and rain of progress, love and joy.

Trying to spread and apply religion to every person in a society is counter to the ideals of liberty. Religious beliefs and faith do not lead to freedom and in my view do not lead to true happiness. On this 4th of July when you think about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, think also about the liberty and happiness of those of us that don’t believe in your religion if you have faith in one. In return, I’ll think about your liberty and happiness and your society given right to keep your religion and leave me out of it.

A Christian Nation?

Politics are in the air due the presidential election.  It’s important to remind both of our major (and generally frustrating and useless) political parties in the United States that this isn’t a Christian nation. Here’s an older but still a very good video on the subject.

I’m a Rebellious Son

Sins are defined as a violation of God’s will. I’m a rebellious son for not keeping the Christian faith of my parents and for continuously rejecting their beliefs. Sometimes I do drink and engage in gluttonous behaviors. Therefore, I would be stoned to death as a sinner and rebellious son if our laws were based on the Bible. I’m in clear violation of God’s will defined by Deuteronomy 21:18-21. What if our lawmakers actually took the Bible literally including passages like these? It’s not hard to imagine this type of nonsense when one actually presents himself as a true believer in a morality defined by the ravings of our primitive ancestors.

Read the Huffington Post article: Charlie Fuqua, Arkansas Legislative Candidate, Endorses Death Penalty For Rebellious Children In Book

I sent my mom this article and her only reply to it so far is “I don’t think so…” I should hope she actually knows this aspect of God’s will should be ignored even if she believes in God. I’m really glad my parents didn’t think like Mr. Fuqua when I was a child. I may not have been stoned because they tell me I wasn’t a bad kid, but what about my brother or my sister? They were rebellious children and maybe they would have been stoned to death. Well, maybe not my sister since apparently the Bible only wants to kill sons for this crime against their parents.

God’s will is supposed to be the eternal definition of absolute morality. If a believer asks me to stone their rebellious son to death to “purge the evil from among you” then I will be sinful yet again when I refuse to participate in such nonsense. I can’t imagine applying this rule to my own children. I’m glad very few people define their morality with the Bible even though believers claim they do. Some of them also claim our country’s laws trace back directly to the “wisdom” of those crazy ancestors of ours. Read every word of the Bible if you think it is full of nothing but wisdom. I have read it and that’s why I no longer believe in it.

I assume my mom’s next reply to my email is that she doesn’t follow the old laws of the Old Testament as a Christian. She’s given me that advice before. However, if you believe that God’s will is the eternal definition of absolute morality then either it’s not eternal or it’s not absolute.

If God changes his will over our passage of time then how do I know that somebody else’s writing today aren’t superseding the written word of the Bible? Maybe the ravings of some random agnostic such as myself is now the current communication of God’s will. The Bible is an old snapshot in time so we should be looking for the latest version of God’s will if it isn’t eternal.

If God’s will isn’t an absolute standard of morality and it is actually subjective, then what does that say about a morality defined by God’s will? If it is subjective then we are left to define morality based on the situation at hand. There is no purpose or requirement for the existence of God’s will to define morality for us. Human standards of morality are a more expansive and useful set of standards that are adaptable for the modern world. The passage of time and continued evolution of human societies continue to expose the Bible and all other religious teachings as simply the ancient fictions of our primitive ancestors based on their views of the world. I don’t want to live my life based on primitive views.

The answers we’re looking for can’t be found with our ancestors. They’re not better than us at understanding the universe we live in. The universe has yet to reveal to us the true first cause and origin of our existence. Currently, unknown IS the answer. Unknown may always be the answer for us simple humans. We need to just live together as humans instead of fighting each other over what we imagine to be the answers to these potentially unanswerable questions and dreams of an eternal existence and power for ourselves that is merely an illusion born out of our fear of death.

It is because of this belief in our lack of knowledge and my faith in the real truth about it all that reveals itself to me in agnosticism that I’m a rebellious son. Sorry, it just doesn’t feel right in the core of my being to believe in any of the gods my fellow humans try to sell me. I’m an agnostic and the one thing I’m sure of is that we don’t know.