June 15, 2004

Confining religion

I usually won't even read most blog posts about religion, because this topic is one on which back-and-forth debate is almost always impossible. One side believes something; the other side doesn't. What next? Usually an avalanche of vituperative text of diarrheic proportions that's useless for anything but making its author feel good about him-or-her self.

Time spent reading this ineffectual drivel is in my opinion a pure waste of time.

Sometimes, though, the topic of religion can't be avoided. Why? Because certain religious zealots (almost all of them on the political right wing) can't stop trying to set up a kingdom of heaven down here on Earth (or whatever other verbiage they use). On my way home from work today I heard an interview on the radio with the leader of the Southern Baptists, who didn't himself argue that every nonbeliever is dirt, but did a fine job of annoying the shit out of me with his self-righteous blather about the "literal truth" of the Bible. Having been thusly annoyed with a religious belief I despise but recognize as something I have no right to forbid with the power of the law, I come home and read blogs.

Brian Leiter recognizes that any requirement that one recite the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance demands a personal profession of faith that the government has no right to demand. Another of my favorite law professor bloggers, Stephen Bainbridge, seems not to.

Perhaps it's just my mood, but I'm getting fed up with the apologists for George W. Bush, like Stephen Bainbridge, who dream of "winning" the "culture wars" by among other things requiring me, or (if I had any) my kids, to affirm a belief in a deity they believe exists, but that I haven't made up my mind about yet. (Uh, yes, that would make me an agnostic.) I'd hate to put Bainbridge in the same bucket as Orson Scott Card, but it's hard not to after reading posts like his--if winning the culture wars means requiring me to profess a particular religious belief, you'll never win. I guarantee it.

In a modest effort to restate my position vis-a-vis writing religion into law, I'll just quote Leiter's post, and go take a long shower to wash off the theocratic grime I've been exposed to.

The Supreme Court permits the government to mandate that anyone who wants to affirm their patriotism by pledging allegiance must do so by affirming the existence of the deity, and Stephen Bainbridge thinks the High Court isn't conservative enough.

Wow!

But in fairness to Steve, he's at least right that we should view the Supreme Court as a naked political actor in cases like this, such that a vote for Bush is a vote for more religion in public life via judicial fiat, and a vote against Bush is a vote for less by the same means.

Gimme Bainbridge on wine any day....

Posted by Carey at June 15, 2004 07:38 PM
Comments

::sigh:: Annoying as hell, isn't it?

As a side note, I went to a veteran's function in D.C. this past May, and at dinner we did the whole pledge of allegiance thing. I simply omitted the offensive words (one of the vets there (a lawyer, btw) simply refused to stand and say the pledge at all). I think that's how the pledge was originally written anyway.

Posted by: Denise at June 16, 2004 07:25 AM

Denise, that is how the pledge was originally written. The "Under God" was thrown in during the '50s, to distinguish us from those "godless communists."

Posted by: Larry at June 16, 2004 05:55 PM

I don't really care all that much about the Pledge, but every now and then I'll get all irritable. I'll attack some small aspect of the right wing on my blog, and then I'll feel better.

Blog costs ought to be a covered benefit from my HMO.

Posted by: Carey at June 16, 2004 07:17 PM

Would you all find the pledge as offensive if it contained a different being, besides God, in which you also do not believe. For example, I wonder if you would find the words "one Nation, under Santa Clause" to be as offensive as "under God" seems to be.

If not, why not? In your mind, how is God any different than Santa Clause, since both are imaginary constructs to you?

Posted by: Jordan at June 17, 2004 04:56 PM

Jordan,

God is not (necessarily) an imaginary construct to me (although a single individual in which reposes the power of the universe *might* be). I do, actually believe in some "higher power".

That is not my complaint with the pledge. My complaint has more to do with the fact that it imposes it upon people who *do* see it as an imaginary construct.

I do think it is just as silly as saying "under Santa Clause" with one major exception. People have long used "God" as a justification for all sorts of things -- good and evil. Santa Clause has, to the best of my knowledge, mostly been used to justify good deeds.

Posted by: Denise at June 19, 2004 09:12 AM