Monthly Archives: September 2012

Is agnosticism “atheism lite”?

This question was posed on a friend’s page on Facebook this morning. My response to the question, “Is agnosticism ‘atheism lite’?” is this:

Most atheists also claim to be agnostic meaning they don’t know if there is a god or not. No one knows for certain if there is a god or not, including the most devout Christian (or any religious group) despite how much they will lie and claim that they know their god is real.

Everyone, atheist or theist, is agnostic. The thing is, though, the atheist goes one step further and takes the definitive stance that, based on the lack of evidence and the improbability of the existence of any deities, we do not believe in any of the thousands of deities that mankind has worshipped over the course of time. The problem is some people, of both atheist and theist persuasion, have falsely defined atheism as “Knowing there are no gods that exist.”

So, when someone claims to be just an agnostic, they are basically sitting on the fence and refusing to really take a position on whether they believe in a deity or not. Saying you are agnostic really means nothing. When someone tells me they are an agnostic, the follow-up question should always be, “But do you believe any gods exist?” If no, then you are an agnostic atheist. If yes, then you are an agnostic theist.

What I think a lot of self-described agnostics are trying to do is take a position where they feel superior to both groups. I’ve seen it a lot. Agnostics who show up on an internet site talking about, “I’m an agnostic but I think hardcore atheists are just as bad as hardcore Christians.” or some variation thereof.

So, to answer the original question, no, agnosticism is not “atheism lite.”

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America’s Constant Violation of the Separation of Church and State

In Steubenville, Ohio, a city in my area of the Northern Ohio Valley, there’s a Constitutional issue taking place. The City of Steubenville, had a new logo designed. The logo contains the silhouettes of three city landmarks: Fort Steuben, the new bridge, and the St. Franciscan University chapel. Now, for those who don’t know, Steubenville is very famous for the university. People from all over the country come to Steubenville to go to the university.

The problem with the inclusion of the chapel is that it also contains the Christian cross on it. Inclusion of any religion in a city logo is clearly a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. So, someone from the city of Steubenville chose to remain anonymous and contacted the Freedom from Religion foundation and informed them of the violation. The FFRF swooped down on Steubenville and told them to remove the cross and chapel from the logo or they would file a lawsuit. The City did so, but then people from the Northern Ohio Valley area took up the cause and are trying to convince the city to leave it in. Supporters of the logo are now painting this as a fight for religious freedom (which, in my view, further illustrates why the chapel and cross should not be included in the logo. They are proving that the inclusion of the cross has everything to do with religion, and not with it being a city landmark like they were initially claiming.)

The supporters of the chapel and cross being included in the logo as a city landmark may have had a leg to stand, initially, if not for the fact that after the City pulled the logo, they approached the University and asked them if they wanted a different university building included in the logo. That way the logo would be religion-free and St. Franciscan could still be represented as a city landmark. The University refused! (http://www.franciscan.edu/News/2012/Statement-on-Change-to-City-Logo/) Clearly, they didn’t care to have their university included. They wanted their religion included!

So how can people argue that the inclusion of the chapel and cross has nothing to do with religion or placing one religion above another? The chapel itself is called “Christ the King Chapel.” There’s no way around it. A city placing one specific religion over all others, or representing only one religion in a city logo, violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. When people look at the Steubenville city logo as intended, it sends a clear message: “This city welcomes all Christians. Everyone else? Sucks to be you. Steubenville is a Christian city.” If the city does not intend to spread this message, then they have no choice but to remove the chapel from the logo and replace it with something else. If St. Franciscan decides to pout and throw a temper tantrum and not use a different university building, then that’s their choice. St. Franciscan is a university and that’s why it was chosen to be included. They are not a Church, no matter how much the Catholic Church runs them and influences their policy. Their religion shall not influence local government.

This brings us to a larger problem, though. America’s constant violation of the separation of Church and State.  Examples of which are America adding “under god” to our pledge (which was originally written by  Christian socialist Francis Bellamy in 1892 sans the phrase) to combat the scourge of the “godless Communists,” and adopting “In god we trust” as our national motto and including it on our money.

America was created by our founding fathers to be a safe haven from a religion-controlled government like the one they fled in England. The First Amendment, clearly the most important one to them, hence why they made it the very first one, protects the people from both a State-sponsored religion, and from the State governing religion. Unfortunately, over the past few hundred years, the extremely religious have tried to hijack the Constitution and distort it and turn America into a Christian theocracy, even to the point where the Religious Right claim that America was founded as  a Christian nation, which is a completely fallacious charge and illustrates that they don’t know American history, or they merely choose to distort it.

America is not and never was a Christian nation. The Treaty of Tripoli, which was ratified unanimously and signed by President John Adams in 1797, states,

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” [Emphasis mine]

Furthermore, the Constitution says that the Government cannot pass a law regarding an establishment of religion. That’s the establishment clause of the First Amendment. That means that one religion cannot be established above all others by the government in any way, shape, or form. Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “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 and State.” [Emphasis mine]

That clarifies it completely. Jefferson, a founding father, and the Constitituion are saying government, the state, should in no way be involved in religion. There should be no religion in government and no government in religion. That’s why things like “under god” in our pledge (which wasn’t in the original pledge, and wasn’t added until 1954) and “In god we trust” were not part of the vision of the founding fathers. If the founding father’s wanted “in god we trust” to be our national motto, they would have made it so. They didn’t. Our original national motto was “E. pluribus unum” or “Out of many, one.” Their vision for America was one of unity. Not one of religion. If they were alive today they would be shaking their head at this madness of religious nonsense in government.

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