Comments: If I Were God...

Blah, blah, blah. Look: two points. First: I didn't mind saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a child. Proud of that flag. But doesn't it seem somehow totalitarian to force children to pledge allegiance to anything other than family, and faith? Hell, why don't they just make them sing the Internationale, or the Marseilles? Enforced allegiance is like compulsory volunteer service, the latest craze we burden our children with.

Point two: The Pledge of Allegiance was written in the 1930's, I believe. The words "under God" were added in 1954, I think, to counteract those godless communist bastids. The dates may be wrong. That isn't the point. The point is politicians, politicians, corrupted the Pledge, and that is why it is anathema to the atheists now. Now reaping what they sowed.

Why not just remove those added-on words, if you want our little children to hew to the statist mantra? Or have the chirren recite the lyrics to Purple Haze instead. Now that, I think, has traction. At least with me.

posted by Velociman on September 14, 2005 09:42 PM

I'm with V-Man on this one, Key...mandating such a pledge is silly to begin with, but requiring such a pledge with the "god" part is particularly irksome.

But overall, I think we need to STOP requiring kids to recite the pledge, and instead spend that extra minute or two each talking about the US Constitution or something much more relevant and less "brain-washy."

posted by david on September 14, 2005 10:05 PM

Damn! Longest comment I've ever gotten from the Velocigod. And I would be flattered, if not for your first three words which are JUST. PLAIN. RUDE.

1. Velocigod is jealous of my deism fantasy.
2. While this may appear to be about the pledge, it really isn't. At least that isn't the angle I care to take.

I can almost see both sides of the pledge debate. And that isn't the point.

The point is, they got prayer, and they SHOULDN'T have, but they did. No more praying out loud in a school structure. Pledge now, what later? I don't know. I just know it isn't a democracy if 20 out of 20 in my daughter's classroom would like to pray or say the pledge, or learn about the impact of religion in History class, but they cannot because some idiot in California got the ball rolling that essentially killed what "separation of church of state" was intended to be.

If you want to do, if you don't, don't. YOU MUST NOT! That I have a problem with.

And this is principle. I could live without it. I'm having trouble getting psyched to sit through the obligatory organized religion hour on Sunday. But I would LOVE if there were a Bible elective in public school, from an educational standpoint. I would like my kid to have a working knowledge. The atheists can elect tribal sciences or vegan recipes, or something else during the same hour.

These options are way out there now, forever unreachable, and it is because of people like Mr. Ca, the ones before him, the ones after him, who intentionally misinterpret the meaning of "separation of church and state."

It is the casuistry I speak of here, not the pledge.

posted by Key on September 14, 2005 10:14 PM

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. I meant to be insulting. My bad.

posted by Velociman on September 14, 2005 11:02 PM

Ah, Debate 101, any point omitted is a point conceded.

Therefore I win. A stale victory, however. I was so hoping to engage with someone who would address the war, rather than the battle of the day.

posted by Key on September 14, 2005 11:15 PM

Well, then. Since my initial post was to tatter the canard of the Pledge of (Seig Heil!) Allegiance, an easy point, let me proceed to the gravamen of the matter.

Freedom FROM religion is certainly the order of the day amongst activist liberal judges. That point is a given. The Pledge is probably not where you want to amass your divisions, however.

I've written before on the slippery slope. It exists. A liberal says "I only want to ban assault weapons". Bullshit. They want ALL your guns. A conservative says "I only want to ban partial birth abrotions". Bullshit. They want ALL abortions illegal. It is the politics of incrementalism, which, barring the thrice in a century lunacy advocacy jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade, is how hardball is played.

The problem is Judaism and Christianity have lived alongside one another in this country for 3 centuries. Now a 3rd religion, hatefully intolerant, demands a seat at the table. And so all religion must perish from public life. And I know this separation of church v. state began before Islamism, but why the great push forward now?
Religion of all types should be displayed where appropriate. I don't know that Roy Moore refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courthouse is the right approach. He was intolerant. Of others' rights, of the law. There is another way. But it will take superb backflipping of the newly recreated Supreme Court to make it happen.

It is called tolerance. Do we ALL have the stomach for that?

posted by Velociman on September 14, 2005 11:34 PM

Y'all got it going on. I can't wait to go drinking again. Damn!

posted by Sam on September 15, 2005 12:20 AM

OK, the war:

If you want to pray in public school, who exactly is stopping you?

That doesn't seem to be precisely what you want, though--you want teacher-led prayer, which is quite a different kettle of fish!

Why would a lunchtime Bible club not meet your needs, for example? Or an after-school group? Why must religon actually be taught as part of the school curriculum?

posted by The Polite Liberal on September 15, 2005 01:47 AM

Bloody Hell, Key, you have to post stuff like this while I'm asleep, and now I have to run off to work (long week this week, a technical conference is in town and I don't want to pay $15 for 1 hour of internet access in the conference center).

Don't worry, though, you'll be hearing from me!

posted by Jack on September 15, 2005 03:14 AM

It is early still by my internal clock, and I am only halfway through my first cup of coffee, but I DID ask for this, so let's see what I can do with it.

I do not think that the 3rd, hatefully intolerant religion wants a seat at the table. I think they want the ONLY seat at the table. Making concessions for them, compromise, not good enough. They want NO sign of religion anywhere that they may tread. It sickens them. In fact, I'm surprised they don't ask that churches have a mandatory 1000 foot setback, so that they don't have to look at them from the state funded road.

Yes, I think many of them are THAT hateful.

Me? I don't want to pray in public school. I don't want to pray in public. I don't to pray out loud. But I would like to defend the right of those who would like to do so, regardless of profession.

My main gripe is the casuistry mentioned in the comment above, how incredibly the purpose of "separation of church and state" is being turned around. A 180. And folks are so inured, and/or their American History is so rusty, that they don't even realize it! That vexes me mightily, yes.

I do want my child to learn the pledge. Personally, I like it. I think it is a child's first sense of patriotism, and therefore essential. And it somehow loses the "feel" of fellowship if my kid is taught by me, as we stand in the yard looking at the flag on the front porch. However, I would be fine with getting her to school ten minutes early so that she could participate in a parent led pledge outside by the flagpole. That ambience beats classroom anyway.

Bottom line, I feel that if the state put forth a modicum of effort, and perhaps displayed a bit of backbone, they could please the lot of us, save the hatefully intolerant, which is where the backbone comes in.

Oh yeah, and to be able to do this, people would have to REMEMBER what "separation of church and state" is supposed to mean. It is a freedom, not a restriction. Why not use it?

A la carte education:

Not that hard. We all pay for it, right? I like to have a say in what I pay for, I'm kinda weird like that.

Send home questionnaires:
Do you want your child to participate in prayers before meals or athletic activities?
Do you want your child to participate in saying the pledge every morning?
Do you want your child to participate in holiday festivities, including Christmas?
Do you want your child to take a history class that is inclusive of religious movements and the study of various theologies?
And last, if a Literature elective were offered to include the study of the Bible with the goal being erudition, not worship or doctrine, would you be interested in signing your child up for this class?

Now, from a very selfish, personal standpoint, I am most interested in the last two. This is because I do not feel that my child has a well rounded education if a huge chunk is missing. And no, she won't get what I seek from church. Not the intense study. Church is songs and worship, and frankly she can get the prayer there. So that is not a personal concern, but worthy of mention as it was one of the first battles, representing the onset of a slow death.

Ironically, of the four questions I mentioned, the two that matter to me are the ones that actually involve education, and they are probably the most unlikely.

And yet, the a la carte thing would be simple to facilitate. As easy as dividing the kids who would rather take French than Spanish.

But the haters do not want everyone to be happy. They are completely intolerant. And I think that their request to disallow something of my child is as ridiculous as if I were trying to force something of their child.

What happened to the whole "live and let live" motto that has been so touted up until recently?

posted by Key on September 15, 2005 10:09 AM

Can 'o worms. Can 'o worms.

I pray in school. Before each and every test. And I don't care WHO has an issue with it. I am quiet about it...not flaunting my religious practices. Not once, since kindergarten, have I been called out for it.

When I was in 9th grade Biology, my instructor taught Darwinism as a fact and not a theory. I confronted him on it and told him that his theory, as far as I was concerned, was B.S. and that he should present it as a theory and not fact. I refused to take his class. I took it all the way to the school board. (My parents were only slightly humiliated). He changed his method. And I earned an A.

For extra-curricular activities, I was in Bible Club. Of course, some of the kids in that club were a little TOO pushy with their faith, so I politely ducked out.

Frankly, my faith is deeply personal. I am not sure I would want any teacher telling me how to pray or leading me in prayer in a public school. What if her beliefs are vastly different than my own? Sure, a moment of silence each morning....to pray, do the pledge, whatever...is fine. But to say that the option isn't there??

The very things our country was founded on are vanishing...and so is democracy. Just my opinion.

posted by Dana on September 15, 2005 10:11 AM

Dana--would it have satisfied you if he had made a point at the start of pointing out the limits of science as an enterprise?

You literally can't study any form of creationism scientifically, because there's no way to make predictions. Absolutely anything you see can be completely explained by "that's the way God wants it."

The problem is that also means creationism isn't useful--you can't use it to predict antibiotic resistance, or as an aid to the potential and limits of artificial selection.

It's certainly possible that Genesis is literally true. If it is, though, God very carefully set things up so that they appear to have evolved. Since the latter can be tested, it's a scientific theory. Since the former can't be, it isn't, even if it's actually true.

Key, and Velociman: Using loaded words is fun! Can I call Christianity a "hateful religion" because a nominal Christian is picketing military funerals? No? Then ratchet down the rhetoric a few notches on us secularists, please.

I don't think anyone would have a problem with the teaching of comaparative religion in social science classes, as long as the teacher can resist the urge to rush through everything but the "real" one.

Bible study's trickier, because (a) it's very long, and would crowd out other literature, and (b) you'd have to be very, very careful to avoid teaching only one particular faith's interpretation. You could probably construct a semester course that was constitutional if you included the talmud and a lot of historical writings. It'd be tricky, though, because it could easily slide into "and here's the correct interpretation", particularly if the teacher is devout. At that point you've set up a Sunday school class inside a public school, which is a terrible idea.

Remember, everything wasn't "fine" in the old, school-prayer days just because secularists kept very quiet. The Catholic schools exist precisely because previous generations couldn't resist the urge to use school prayer to convert Catholics, to take the most obvious example.

posted by The Polite Liberal on September 15, 2005 11:02 AM

Forget Science, already had that debate with Jack, and I am willing to concede that subject in favor of the History and Lit I discussed above. (But kudos to Dana on the progress she made.)

And yes, I think the topics I mentioned could and SHOULD be taught without bias. I don't want any nutjob, Christian or no, teaching my kid doctrine. And I think most of us can agree there. Frankly, worship, while perhaps invaluable on a spiritual plane, is worthless academically. I mean an involved, brain-splitting, paper writing STUDY, that leaves the student armed for erudite, theological debate.

I would hate for intro to religion to begin in college. Too much info for one semester, and doomed to fail with no background.

Regarding the "hateful" remark. I'll retract and rephrase: Due to areas of Faith, I feel HATED and TARGETED by certain people/groups. And my therapist says emotions do not have to be validated! Religious profiling! I am a victim!

Moving along... It really is the academics I'm after, and I post on the other topics because I feel they render these academic goals that much more unreachable.

posted by Key on September 15, 2005 12:38 PM

Gee, Key, I'm going to get all jealous, you playing with the other folks while I'm busy at a scientific/technical conference...
:-P

As I wrote somewhere, but I forgot where now because I'm writing too much and not tracking where it goes enough, given the abysmal record for the public school system in teaching science or any other subject well, I would think that those who have a strong faith would be fighting at all costs to keep that faith as far away from the public schools as possible. Nothing perverts an idea faster or farther than having a public school try to teach it to indifferent students who have harried parents.

Regarding offering the "option" between yes and no for many religious topics, it's a nice idea in concept, but I doubt it will ever happen, but not for the reasons most suspect.

I grew up in Northern Mississippi, the RICH part, where the average income was only 15% less than that of Arkansas, number 49 among the states in average income.

Dividing between kids who took French or Spanish? Hell, we were lucky they taught ENGLISH...

It's all about money.

Every time the local school board asks for a tax hike, it goes for a vote (at least where I have lived so far), and every time, I have voted "yes" for more money for the schools.

And 75% of the time, the school board request was rejected by the voters.

Boys and girls, you get what you pay for.

And before you complain about being "overtaxed", let me make one thing perfectly clear to you:

Despite having the world's largest economy...

Despite having the world's most powerful military...

Despite having resources no other nation in the world has...

We are taxed LESS than ANY other developed country in the world.

The ONLY reason we have the world's most powerful military is because we DO have the world's largest economy, NOT because we are taxed so heavily.

Perhaps instead we should focus on WHAT we spend the money on, like a pork-filled highway bill that includes a bridge in Alaska that costs over $100 million but leads to an area with less than 400 people.

As I like to say, do the math...

I repeat, you get what you pay for. Perhaps we ALL should be concentrating our attention upon that, what we are paying for and why.

posted by Jack on September 15, 2005 02:40 PM

I see nothing wrong with making the pledge manditory, ya don't like it, I have no problem bitch slapping you into Canada. I have earned that right.

posted by James Old Guy on September 15, 2005 02:46 PM

Of course we are taxed less!!!!! As it should be. The others, if not admittedly socialist, are close enough in my book. We are it. As close to democracy as it gets, and desperately trying to hold on to that.

The fact that we decide where our money goes as individual consumers MORE than those in other countries are allowed is WHY we have the largest economy.

We'd be stronger still if more was privatized; the underfunded educational institutions you mentioned, combined with disparity over desired curriculum that I mentioned, is enough to make the case for private education.

But then the poor wouldn't send their kids would they? Well, let em save a buck and home school. Or...

There is always a happy medium. Continue to tax us for education, then give us the credit. The entire thing. As in, Podunk Elem would get 5 grand a year for my kid. I don't send her there, I get to hit the road with the five grand.

We go public, we owe nothing. Maybe we go private, we owe nothing, provided Christian schools are adequately sponsored. Or go private academy and cough up the difference.

THAT is how we should get what we pay for. We pick the quality. We pick the curriculum. We pick whether or not to pray or pledge.

Damn. That sounds almost democratic AND capitalist. A twofer.

posted by Key on September 15, 2005 03:08 PM

...And don't be jealous; we saved you a seat! Oh, and there's plenty of room at the abortion table below. I already solved that one, though. ;)

posted by Key on September 15, 2005 03:10 PM

TPL -
Perhaps I should have given more history on my biology teacher. Darwinism was the ONLY "fact" discussed, without giving ANY possible credit to creationism, whether it be scientific or not. Sure, even creationism reveals that things evolve, but when the "theory" of creationism is ignored, I have issue with it. Neither has been proven, scientifically, to be the end all, be all.

Had the instructor said something to the affect of, "We'll be discussing two theories this year. One is evolution or Darwinism, the other is Creationism."

For me, that would have sufficed. But at the time, at only 15 years old, I felt robbed and cheated. I felt my instructor was using his role as a teacher to propagate his personal beliefs in Darwinism and force his "factual basis" on impressionable minds.

The school even found that this teacher's actions went against the curriculum and required that BOTH "theories" be addressed, leaving all "religiousness" aside. It's just unfortunate that it took a pissed off student and the school board for the instructor to address it.

posted by Dana on September 15, 2005 05:27 PM

Dana, I had that VERY debate with Jack. Well, the two theory thing. I would have appreciated two theories being represented when I was in high school. No such luck. Oh, and Jack didn't budge much on the issue either.

So, I'm going for religious history, comp religion, and literary study of religious books, including the Bible.

He slapped me with funding, then went MIA! It's not even midnight yet over there... Wake up Jack!

posted by Key on September 15, 2005 05:40 PM

The problem is that creationism and the theory of evolution are fundamentally different, and the evidence used to support each isn't compatible.

You literally _can't_ disprove creationism, because any evidence _at_all_ can be accounted for by arguing that that is how things were created to be. That doesn't mean that creationism is necessarily right or wrong, but it does mean that science can't address it.

The theory of evolution really is a scientific theory, in that it could in principle be disproven. This is why most of the "creationism vs. evolution" debates that you see focus entirely on the creationist attacking evolution and the biologist defending.

They're different sorts of theories, even though they're both called that. I'd want a science teacher to explain what sorts of ideas science can and can't address; since science can't address creationism I wouldn't expect to hear much beyond that about it in a science class.

posted by The Polite Liberal on September 15, 2005 06:47 PM

Apparently the grossly overrated Velocihumor does not translate well in tonier climes, and for that I apologize. I will stick to the topics at hand:

TPL: I will tone down the rhetoric when Muslims tone down the terrorism. Equating a Christian picketing a military funeral with a suicide assassin targeting schoolchildren is not only ludicrous, it is an abomination. Virtually every conflagration on the planet has Muslims on one, or both sides. That does not bespeak a religion, but a deranged cult. One that officially condones, hell, dictates and adjudicates, the stoning of women, the honor killing of women, the genital mutilation of women, the deliberate targeting of innocents in warfare. No thanks. They don't deserve a seat at any table. They can dine on scraps out the back door with the dogs.

Jack: not enough on education? Where have you been? Spending, especially federal spending (spare us the local property tax debate) has skyrocketed in the last 20 years to astronomical proportions, especially under George W. Bush. No Child Left Behind ring a bell?
The problem is all those vast sums of money don't make it to the classroom, to the children, in teachers' salaries. It goes to support a bloated bureaucracy of union ne'er-do-wells, who have zero accountability. I'm no fan of NCLB, but at least it calls for some accountability.
Take my state, Florida. The union pushed for maximum class sizes of 20, and won a constitutional amendment. They want more teachers, more union dues payers. The costs will be staggering. That money would have been beter spent on merit pay for existing teachers. Folly.

Key: I'll get back on the creationism issue. I am of mixed minds. Must sort my thoughts.

posted by Velociman on September 15, 2005 08:07 PM

That's okay Vman; that twas only a tangent anyway. My main gripe is the fear that the Christianity haters will make it so that the curriculum of the next generation is not only stymied, but turned into swiss cheese. Any religious reference removed, makes for serious gaps in history.

In Literature, the Iliad is cool to study because the gods there are mythical. Right? Meaning, the Bible is off limits because the God who stars that book ISN'T mythical... or because He is?

History or Literature, either way, the Bible should be studied. No indoctrinating the youths, just educating. It can be studied alongside the Koran and the book of Morman, and in my opinion, should. Worship it or not, and believe or not, I think kids should have a working knowledge; the Bible will remain a literary classic, and it will remain on the best seller list. Forever and ever, Amen.

In selecting the curriculum for our youth, how do you ignore that?

posted by Key on September 15, 2005 08:36 PM

I will certainly agree that the teaching of comparative religion in high school should be mandatory. Religion, for better or worse, has molded every civilization to date. Ignoring it is like pretending the Bronze Age never happened. Or the Black Death did not wipe out a third of Europe and China in the 14th century.

It also has the added bonus of allowing insight into what impels a particular civilization forward, or backward.

posted by Velociman on September 15, 2005 08:54 PM

Velociman--sorry; my reading comprehension has suffered from attempts to trade work and coffee for sleep. I thought you were referring to secularism as the "third, hateful religion." What you meant is clear from your post--I was off in caffeine-zombieland.

There is a danger in merit pay--the school administrations that would define "merit" have a distressing tendency to be deeply stupid. (The typical path to administration is "gym coach=>gym coach that occasionally teaches low-level classes=>administrator with strong views on how calculus should be taught.") If we're going to make teaching a profession, we have to go whole hog--we have to make school administration a proper profession as well.

posted by The Polite Liberal on September 15, 2005 11:22 PM

Velociman--I'd agree as well with making comparative religion mandatory. It actually was in 1988 in California, when I was in high school--it was part of the ninth grade curriculum. If it has vanished since, it should be put back. That's something even an atheist like me would agree with.

As for the pledge--what I'd really like to see is a return to the pre-"under God" pledge. That'd put the focus back on patriotism, where it belongs. It'd also restore the original emphasis on the really crucial word: "indivisible."

posted by The Polite Liberal on September 15, 2005 11:44 PM

TPL: Right-o on the merit pay. It must be a true performance mannagement process, devoid of cronyism. Not as hard to administer as one might think, but the management (school board) must administer. Not the union. And I also agree on the pre "under God" Pledge. Indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all was all I ever needed to hear. The rest I got in Sunday School (Oops. I skipped a lot. Went to Solomon's Drugstore across the street, and got soda fizzes mostly).

posted by Velociman on September 16, 2005 12:11 AM

methinks that Velociman is both RUDE and INSULTING, not greatly but just mediocre. So much for my opinion on his comments!

posted by johndeerebilly on September 16, 2005 08:04 AM
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