Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Keep the State Out of Religion

I am an anti-establishmentarian, a Christian who prefers to see the church and the state kept separate. One reason for this is my view of the state as illegitimate and unfit for association with the church. Another is that no good purpose can be served by the state’s meddling in religion. As I see it, politicians and bureaucrats like to align themselves with God so as to imply that they have God’s endorsement. God certainly does not need the endorsement of politicians and bureaucrats, and the main reason for endorsing religion is to control the masses, something I do not regard as desirable.

Another reason is that, although I live in a supposed Christian nation, only about half of us claim to go to church regularly and only about 25% actually do go to church regularly. We hardly have a consensus about what it means to be a Christian, and even we churchgoers have such significant differences that any established form of Christianity is bound to offend most of us. I strongly reject any Arminianist or Darbyite version of Christianity, and Protestants and Catholics traditionally have all they can handle in not killing one another.

But, my conspecifics may be heard to argue, what is the harm of having school children sing carols? In my view, having a teacher, an agent of the state, require children to sing religious hymns smacks of establishment. Certainly, children should be permitted to sing hymns if they so choose on a voluntary basis, but the official government agency ought not to compel it or to endorse it. Certainly, it will be the rare case in which any child is directly harmed by hymn singing, but the example of a government entity attached to religion may well inspire in children a notion that the government is legitimate and that its authority is God given. And once one gives in on hymn singing, official prayers will not be far behind. Parents who want their children to sing hymns ought by all means to set up a choir of some sort for their little cherubs, and I am unaware of any obstacle to their doing so other than sloth or disinterest.

What harm can come of a Nativity Scene on the grounds of the Town Hall? Again, it is blasphemous for the town to claim the imprimatur of the Divine, and no proper purpose is served by such a display. A private person might erect such a display provided that the opportunity to use grounds of the Town Hall is afforded to everyone on an equal footing.

I do not want government, which is nothing but force and fraud, used to foist some statists’ misguided notions of Christianity on the rest of us.

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