Not a Renaissance Man

Charlie Daniels is many things--a pretty good fiddle player, a self-described super-patriot, writer/performer of some of the most popular country songs in the history of the genre--but he's not exactly the deepest of thinkers, and the skills he once brought to songwriting are, in his case, not put to the best use when he tries his hand at other writing.

He's mad at Michael Newdow again--and you have to do some reasoning around the edges to get this--because Newdow filed suit, along with a number of other atheists, to take God references out of the inauguration ceremony. I say you have to do some reasoning around the edges because the rant is, well, largely incoherent. Here's a sample:

If you look at this issue using cowboy logic, if atheists don't believe there is a God, why do they care where his name appears? Atheists by their very supposed beliefs claim they don't believe in religion.

Just what in the name of Sam Hill is atheism, if not a religion? It's a belief, a choice concerning the deity, whether pro or con, so what atheists are doing is trying to force their religion on everybody else.

Now Mr. Newdow, and I'm sure he'll find a bunch of heathen lawyers to go along with him, wants prayer taken out of Obama's inauguration claiming that it amounts to the government endorsing religion.
Sorry about that--I know it hurts, but walk it off, and you'll be okay.

Let me start by saying that I think Newdow's suit, while it has a legitimate complaint, also has less than no chance of winning, and it's not a suit I would have brought. There are bigger issues involving the separation of church and state for me than whether the money says "In God We Trust," or if the Pledge says "under God," especially since, in the latter case, the Supreme Court has already found that one can't be forced to say the Pledge, with or without the offending passage. I'm far more worried about, oh, public money being given to religious schools under the guise of school choice, or the inclusion of Creationism in school curricula under the aegis of "Intelligent Design." The money can wait.

But Daniels doesn't even deal with that part of it. His "cowboy logic" (an offense to both logic and cowboys) tells him that since atheists don't believe in God, they shouldn't care if God is all over the place. That's like saying that if psychotic Christians don't believe in Allah, they ought not mind seeing the star and crescent beside nativity scenes during the Christmas season. Wonder how that would go over for Charlie?

The larger point, of course, is that what atheists object to isn't so much the appearance of the word "God" as we do the reality that religious belief, injected into the legal system, affects the daily lives of people who don't believe. Take the "Intelligent Design" debate, for example. I find myself growing older in a country where there's a concerted effort afoot by religious people to mandate the teaching of a belief system--in science classrooms--that could put our next generation even farther behind the rest of the world when it comes to understanding science.

So the issue isn't one of whether I think other people ought to be able to worship as they please, or even make public displays of their worship--and yes, they should not only be allowed, they should be encouraged to do so. The issue is one of whether our government ought to be privileging one set of beliefs over another, and I think the answer to that is a clear "no." The government shouldn't be atheist--that would be taking a side. It should, rather, be agnostic, taking no position as to whether a god or gods exist, and making no rules or regulations based solely on religious reasoning.

That's an impossible dream of a government, at least at present. Religious belief is a really powerful super-replicator, and has been for thousands of years--it's not about to lose its stranglehold anytime soon--and since religious people are in charge of government, there will always be some overlap. But as long as we're going to be a pluralistic society--and if we hold to the principles in the First Amendment, we will be--we have to acknowledge that for the government to privilege one set of beliefs means that it oppresses those others, and that the best solution for everyone is for government to stay out of it.

One other bit:
Well if Mr. Newdow has his way and they take the prayer out doesn't that amount to the government endorsing atheism?

Of course it does, and I'll tell you one thing, if the courts of this nation side with the atheists and take prayer out of the inauguration, this nation -which is already in the throes of economic crisis- will pay a price.

If we deny God His rightful place in the affairs of this nation should we expect Him to intervene when we need protection? Just what do you think has kept us safe from terrorist attacks since 9/11? It certainly wasn't the atheists.
I quoted this mostly for the last bit, because I think it really illustrates the strange relationship people like Daniels have with their God. Daniels says that God has been protecting the US from terrorists since 9/11. Apparently, God doesn't think much of US soldiers overseas, because they've gotten the crap beaten out of them by terrorists over the last 7 years, and I'm guessing that the whole "God on the money and in the pledge and in the inauguration" bit didn't do much to keep God from stepping in on 9/11 either. Was God too busy dealing with other stuff? Or did He just decide that we needed a lesson and so 3,000 innocents had to die and their families had to suffer tremendous pain in order to get the point across?

And is terrorism the only thing God's supposed to be protecting us from? What about hurricanes? Or earthquakes? Forest fires? I guess God only controls the natural world when it comes to using it for smiting.

Why would anyone worship a God like the one Daniels posits? Fear is about all I can come up with--the kind of fear that gets instilled into a brain that constantly receives mixed signals from an authority figure, and so doesn't know how to react when stimulated.

Not all Christians are like Daniels, I know. Most of the Christians I know would never require that their God put up a wall of impenetrability around the nation, nor would they suggest that removing the word God from public spaces would result in divine retribution, which is good. It means they're not all nuts.

Via Pharyngula

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