January 2005
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Church and State

Ok, there has been more debate over at Frizzen Sparks regarding the separation of the two, and that whole stupid sticker business. He got pissed for the opposite reason than I did, that the schools were teaching evolution as fact in the first place, and not theory. I agree that it should be taught as a theory, just less vehemently than he :)

Anywho, down in the comments for that post, a gent goes on a bit about how nearly all modern laws can find their roots in the Ten Commandments handed down to Moses by God. This is completely true.


The laws themselves were not necessarily all of a religious nature. To wit:

(Taken from a Hebrew translation and edited for brevity by me.)

1) I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

2) You shall not make for yourself an idol…

3) You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the L ORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

4) Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

5) Honor your father and your mother…

6) You shall not murder.

7) You shall not commit adultery.

8) You shall not steal.

9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

10) You shall not covet your neighbor’s _____.

1, 2, 3 and 4 deal with religion very directly, but the others are more for defining a set of morals and standards by which to treat your fellow man. The purpose for these moral standards is fairly obvious, and instilling them into the Israelites was a good way to get started on bringing some order into the world. There were alot of Israelites, after all, and the lack of birth control available means there was bound to be more of them. If there is (or was) a God, I can’t say as I blame Him, and if there wasn’t, well, it was a good idea Moses had to put an end to the hostilities, and the first four were just to sort of set the tone and install Moses solidly as their leader.

See, back then, just about every time you crossed a landmark (river, mountains, stand of trees…) you crossed a national border claimed by some group or other. Chances are, these folks didn’t want you tresspassing and would let you know in no uncertain terms to get lost again.

Makes it difficult to settle down, eh?
Nations back then were formed more by military strength than anything else, but we all know that never leads to stability, since there’s always some jerkwad out there that wants what you have and is willing to beat it out of you. The idea of religion, on the other hand, probably predates the spoken word, and was an effective tool for controlling the masses. So, here we have some basic standards of a functional society laid down in the form of religion, something that had a better chance of spreading out and staying that way than national borders.

Anywho, back to the present.

So here we are in America with a stack of law books by our side and we notice that the vast preponderance of laws can be traced back to the Top Ten laid out by Moses. Is this a bad thing? No. I can agree wholeheartedly with #5 on (heck, I do my darndest not to work on Saturdays too), and do not include them in the ‘separation of Church and State’ issue. Fact of the matter is, those same values have been generated by almost every religion in existence today.

Where I get picky is when the Church tries to step into the State’s business by creating new laws either slanted toward their beliefs or outright favoring one religion over another. The Oregon Christian Alliance is a constant thorn in my side around election time, and the whole gay marriage issue of the last election is a prime example.

My stance is this: the State should in no way promote any religion over another in any arena for any reason. All laws passed should be non-denominational, and written in such a way that they cannot be used to persecute or promote a religious group, as well as being written to protect all religious groups.

Above all else, free will must be preserved, provided it harm none.

This of course, still leaves us some sticky situations. Abortion, for example. Euthenasia. Suicide. Others, when looked at fom a logical standpoint are very straightforward, yet get muddy when one lets one’s religious convictions into the picture. Marriage is a prime example. Logically, there should be no legal limits on who can marry who beyond Age of consent and bloodlines. Every religion in the world, however, has different ideas on what is right or wrong in this matter. Arranged marriages, multiple marriages, mariage with concubines on the side…it’s all been done somewhere, and it’s been done for centuries. Why are we suddenly worried about a legal definition of who you can marry?

So, the people should have the run of their personal lives, the State should have the run of keeping things running, and the Church should worry itself about preparing believers for the Afterlife they ascribe to. Just because your religion says something is wrong doesn’t mean you get to make folks of other religions follow your rules.

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