I occasionally write a letter to the editor of our small town newspaper. They allow me to put my two cents into the topic at hand. But since our town is so small I am often reluctant to chime in on some sensitive issues for fear of being labeled by my neighbors. Anonymity is not an option in small town living.
When I ran across this “letter to the editor” from Buffalo NY it got my attention. To me the author spells out the relationship between government and religion as concisely as possible:
Like the Bible, the writings of the nation’s Founding Fathers can be cherry-picked to lend credence to otherwise specious arguments. While some of the founders saw value in religious (albeit Christian) practice, the main thrust of the First Amendment of the Constitution is actually freedom from religion. Surely, the Constitution writers remembered that many of their ancestors came to these shores to escape the prosecution brought on by that dark side of all religion: its inability to tolerate disagreement.
Indeed, they did not rely upon religion to restrain vice and wickedness. To cite Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”: Governments are formed in reaction to the inability of moral virtue to govern the world. “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness: the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.”
I discovered the massive cherry picking that goes on in most religious circles in order to justify their particular flavor of religion but I hadn’t thought of it also applying to how we view our founding documents. But the right to bear arms found in the 2nd amendment is a glaring example of cherry picking. Almost all gun rights advocates ignore the first words of that amendment and concentrate totally not the last ones. They ignore the reason to have guns and therefore try to make it a blanket statement that everyone should have guns.
Yes, I discovered years ago that the freedom of religion amendment was mainly about freedom “from” religion as pointed out in the quote above. Believe what you want just don’t try to force those beliefs on me in the name of the State. That is my mantra via my proudly displayed “Coexist” decals on all my vehicles.
I love the last quote from Tom Paine’s “Common Sense” articles. That is a new twist for me. Negatively restraining our vices, that’s a good one…