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Comments about ‘Letters: Jefferson and religion’

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Published: Wednesday, May 1 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

"the Constitution's First Amendment, which was meant to protect religion from the effects of political interference."

Yes, but if you acknowledge the fact that one of the driving forces of this country was also to protect government from the effects of religious interference.

Hence the wall of separation. If you look at all of Jeffersons quotes, it is clear that he had a healthy skepticism of Religion.

I provided a few. (Pence and power - it is always there)

"But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. "

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."

"My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there."

RAB
Bountiful, UT

There was no "driving force to protect government from the effects of religious interference." Jefferson merely believed that religion is a personal thing that should not be forced on (or from) anyone. That was the goal. He does not take that so far as to suggest the absurdity that beliefs that exist in religious doctrines must be barred from influencing government.

When people seek to categorize people's beliefs, their goal is to establish which people's beliefs should be deemed inferior to the others. The human mind however, does not separate religious beliefs over here and non-religious beliefs over there. One's religious and non-religious beliefs are inseparably intertwined. Any attempt to separate them requires endowing some individual with superior authority to inform us as to which beliefs are worthy to be deemed fact and which ones must be relegated to the realm of myth.

In reality, if God exists, His existence is as much a fact as any fact. It is not merely some inferior "religious" belief. And if something is a fact, it is absurd to obligate the government to ignore or deny it.

George
New York, NY

So how is forcing through the rule of law people of every religion and the non-religious to live by your religious dictates not allowing politics to influence religion? This strange expansive view of religions being crying follow when they are not able to require everyone to follow their doctrine has somehow taken hold in our country but it fails basic reasoning. If you want to ban gay marriage from your religion go have at it, but don’t tell me my religion cannot conduct gay marriages if we soi choose or that secu;lar people that do not share yur view cannot have a secular same sex marraige.

JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

"In reality, if God exists, His existence is as much a fact as any fact."

What?

Yes, if it was a Fact that God existed, it would be a fact.
Cant argue with that.

But, it is not a fact, by the definition of the word.
And his or her nonexistence is also not a fact. We just don't know.

This country came to existence in part because of government and religion became intertwined to the extent that Religion was forced on people.

Was govt forcing religion, or was religion forcing govt? Doesn't really matter.

The goal of this countries founders was clearly to separate the two.

Yes, many were religious. Many were Christians. But they had the wisdom to see that neither one should have undue influence over the other.

Eric Samuelsen
Provo, UT

Yes, Jefferson allowed and attended Church services in the Capitol building. It was the only building in town. There weren't any church buildings. Where the heck else would they have held services? Had nothing to do with the separation of Church and state.

George
New York, NY

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life recent research found that more often than not that religions were the cause of hostilities towards other religions not secularism. The their research also found that social hostilities involving religion are 3.5 times higher in countries with very high government favoritism of religion than in countries with low levels of favoritism. The study found that some government restrictions have a stronger association with social hostilities than others. Government policies or actions that clearly favor one religion over others have the strongest association with social hostilities involving religion. It is time to focus on the real problem which is those that spread the idea this expansive view that their religious rights are only protected when they can force the rest of society to live by their religious dictates.

mark
Salt Lake City, UT

RAB, or anyone else that believes religion should not be seperated from government, can you tell me exactly what that means. How do you see government functioning with religious influence. Tell us in detail how that would work. What is your vision? There is no room for being vague on this issue. How would it work?

Would it be like Iran's government? Or something else? What religion would have influence on government? Catholics? Jehovah's Witness? Christian Scientists? Pagans? Muslims? Mormons?

How does it work in your vision?

lost in DC
West Jordan, UT

JoeBlow,
There is nothing to indicate one of the driving forces of this country was to protect government from the effects of religious interference. The basis for you argument is fallacious.

Eric,
Tents and open air services were common in the Great Revival and Second Great Revival. I’m surprised you did not know that and had to ask where else services could have been held. They could have also held them in private residences, which was also common.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

"Within a year of his inauguration (1801), Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Worship services in the House were acceptable to Jefferson because they were NONdiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of EVERY denomination appeared."

=============

If the GOP is ok with Pagan and Lucifer worship services, then go for it.

But based on the Islam-iphobes and Polygamy hating comments from conservatives of late,
I highly doubt they could rise to the NONdiscriminantory integrity level of Thomas Jefferson.

BTW - The President still hosts National Prayer, Prayer is given in Congress --
but again, it's to the nondiscrimnatory standard established by Jefferson.

If you dropped the intolerance and constant rivalry between religious factions to anyone deemed not as CHRISTIAN as you are,
then perhaps you'd be surprised to kind most NON religous folks being more tolerent of tolerating your religion.

Beatle Juice
South Jordan, UT

The founders included freedom of religion in the 1st amendment because so many of those who settled here came from a land of religous intolerance where the State had an official religion. They could not practice as they wished, so they left. They didn't want the same restriction in their new home.

This law has been twisted beyond recognition by some who insist that government representatives should be prohibited from even uttering a reference to God, as though the clause should permit only agnostics or atheists to run for office so as not to poison the public discourse with talk about diety.

Almost all religions believe that stealing is wrong. Does that mean that our laws, also based on such principles, should be struck from the books because they are influenced by religious belief?

The truth is, all laws are moral, it's just a question of which morals the representatives and lawmakers can agree to codify into law. Some societies have chosen (or have been forced) to become godless. Take a good look at the former Soviet Union, or present day North Korea. Is this really the standard for which we should aim?

Stalwart Sentinel
San Jose, CA

If Jefferson's actions speak louder than words, as the author claims, then one need only look at his creation of the Jefferson Bible. Jefferson was "a sect by [him]self."

isrred
South Jordan, UT

"Almost all religions believe that stealing is wrong. Does that mean that our laws, also based on such principles, should be struck from the books because they are influenced by religious belief?"

Stealing isn't illegal because it's based on religious morality, it is illegal because it infringes upon the private property rights of others. Murder isn't illegal because Christianity or Judaism believe it to be immoral, but because it violates the right to life and liberty of others.

It has nothing to do with moral codes of religions.

Beatle Juice
South Jordan, UT

isrred, you have reinforced the necessity of morality within the law. In a scenario where there was no right or wrong (even infringing on others' rights)--would stealing necessarily be wrong? Even murder? Morality, by definition, centers on and defines what is right and wrong. Morality is not only the basis for law, it is essential for a lawful society.

In the words of John Adams, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion...Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Or George Washington, "Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society."

Or Ben Franklin to the Continental Congress, ""Whereas true religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness . . . it is hereby earnestly recommended to the several States to take the most effectual measures for the encouragement thereof."

A legal system not based on moral concepts would be, to use a modern term, messed up.

uncommonsense
CENTERVILLE, UT

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Thus reads the entire first amendment. So many recite and demand that this means freedom from religion. In doing so they forget that part where it says "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". Free exercise means that we are freely allowed to practice the religion of our choice even when participating in government. That was the point of Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. That they must be allowed to participate in government as Baptists.

This has nothing to do with a code of religion or the demand that if I put up anything Christian, that a Satanist image must be put up as well. In fact, demanding that all be equally represented or none can be is a violation of First Amendment rights as well.

George
New York, NY

@uncommonsense
your right to exercise your religion does not include you being allowed to usirbe my religious beleifs. No one claims you do not have the right to be participate in government but rather you do not get to use government to violate others first amendment rights which is exactly what your last comment suggest.

GK Willington
Salt Lake City, UT

Mr. Thorpe did a nice job of cherry picking much like the people that pull Hannity's strings.

From Jefferson's Letter... "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

Its crystal clear (to me anyway) that Jefferson was speaking in terms of policy.

mark
Salt Lake City, UT

"This law has been twisted beyond recognition by some who insist that government representatives should be prohibited from even uttering a reference to God,"

Beatle, while, perhaps, some on the extreme fringe believe as such, can you show me any law or any proposed law or regulation that would require this? Or any legitimate group or individual pushing anything like this?

"Some societies have chosen (or have been forced) to become godless. Take a good look at the former Soviet Union, or present day North Korea. Is this really the standard for which we should aim?"

Yes, but some societies have also become ruled by religion. Take a look at Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban. Is that really the standard we should be striving for?

Uncommon sense said,

"Free exercise means that we are freely allowed to practice the religion of our choice even when participating in government."

That is the closest anyone came to answering my question from yesterday: how do you think religion should be able to influence government. Uncommon sense, I give you the same challange as Beatle Juice. Name any proposed legislation that would ban this.

Beatle Juice
South Jordan, UT

Mark requests any example of groups or legislation pushing a ban on religious speech or freedom by govt. officials. How about a 2011 federal court decision that the national day of prayer was unconstitutional? Fortunately, it was overturned by an appeals court, but only on the grounds that the plaintiff did not have legal standing in the matter.

How about the infamous provision in the new healthcare law that requires coverage, even by religious institutions, of contraception. The federal government is essentially saying, "your religion is interesting, but contraception is more important".

What about the prohibition by government from allowing students to pray in school? Again, religion is okay, but you cannot utter certain words on government property--in this case, a school.

Multiple lawsuits attempting to remove the national motto (In God We Trust) from currency.

I have no problem with not promoting a certain religion--i.e., Christian, Muslim, etc. However, how many examples do you want showing a push to remove mention of God altogether?

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

@Beatle Juice
South Jordan, UT

Mark requests any example of groups or legislation pushing a ban on religious speech or freedom by govt. officials.

=========

I just L-O-V-E-D watching the God loving, God-fearing GOP smack down, ridicule, and gossip and rub Mitt Romney's nose in our Mormonism.

But go ahead, support the those who won't allow an Islamic cultural center to be built.

Hypocrites.

UtahBlueDevil
Durham, NC

"What about the prohibition by government from allowing students to pray in school?"

Actually, in most places, students are allowed to pray in school. They just aren't allowed to have school led prayer. But in many schools there are christian organizations that meet there.... and in many around this area, churches use the schools for services and activities.

There is a big difference between the government leading religious services, and the religious services held at government facilities. They just have to have the same rules for all groups.

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