Monday, March 31, 2008

Big Reason Christians Should Want Secular Government

Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world's largest religion, the Vatican newspaper said Sunday.

"For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us," Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. Formenti compiles the Vatican's yearbook.

He said that Catholics accounted for 17.4 percent of the world population — a stable percentage — while Muslims were at 19.2 percent.

"It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer," the monsignor said.

Formenti said that the data refer to 2006. The figures on Muslims were put together by Muslim countries and then provided to the United Nations, he said, adding that the Vatican could only vouch for its own data.

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 percent of the world population, Formenti said.

Spokesmen for the Vatican and the United Nations did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Sunday.

Christians want their way when they are the majority, but the time is slowly approaching when they will not be the majority. I probably won't be around any longer when it happens, but it would be fun to see the same people who want christianity spread throughout government argue against islam being spread throughout government.



Didn't it seem a little like sour grapes when the monsignor mentioned Muslims "make alot of children" and "Christian ones...tend to have fewer and fewer". I also found it peculiar that Muslims "make" them and Christians "have" them. Probably nitpicking, but interesting nonetheless.

csm said...



Actually, I would think the best reason why any religion would want the country to stay secular would be to have the government stay out of any dogma the particular religion would want to espouse. The Mormons lost bigamy, the Indians almost lost peyote and I am sure there has to be other examples I cannot come up with on the spur of the moment. Once you introduce government(especially on the federal level)into your equation you will play hell trying to get them out of your hair once you recognize you have made a grave error.

coreydbarbarian said...

a quick note on catholics:
they have always made it a priority to have a lot of kids.
i used to think it was just a stereotype, but over the last year i have had the opportunity to listen to notre dame radio for an hour on saturdays, and they actually push their members to have large families. strategically, it makes sense.

this issue was mentioned on the 22nd when i listened. they put the guilt trip on 'em, too! "catholics aren't doing their duty!" wah.

csm said...

Yes, Bawdy, I agree that that is probably the best reason for religious folks to want religion kept out of politics. However, there are some (quite a few, actually) who just cannot resist trying to institutionalize their belief system into the politics of their country so they can force their beliefs to become the law.

Ceroill said...

Well, they have this whole idea deeply ingrained that this is already (or was) a 'Christian Nation', and that it was 'Founded On Christian Principles'. Therefore obviously it would work the other way round- instead of the Gummint messing with their dogma, the Christian dogma would be imposed on the Gummint. Or so they think, I think.

csm said...

Yes, Bob, that whole we are a "christian nation" founded on "christian principles" nonsense. The constant bleating of those phrases becomes annoying at times, doesn't it?


Many of these are the same people who feel we should follow the "rule of law". We aren't talking about "divine" law, but laws enacted by man. What irks me is they vacillate between the two to make their point. Immigration is a perfect example. Christ would probably have had little problem with a people crossing our borders to a better life; so Christian doctrine isn't helpful to them; this is when they invoke the "rule of law". But you bring up abortion, and the "rule of law" goes against them and now we are back to divine law. And when you magnify the situation with bad laws, divine or man-made, a fair shake is impossible to achieve.

Ceroill said...

Bawdy, yep. Well said. Have you noticed how the immigration issue (aimed whichever direction) only tends to crop up when the economy and the job market seems to be unstable? Yes, there are always grumblers, but it only gains real force when there is fiscal uncertainty in the air.

coreydbarbarian said...

did you guys see the richard dawkins rap video yet?

Ceroill said...

Ok that was cute.

csm said...

Gee thanks, CoreyD... there's 4 minutes of my life I'll never get back! (And was one of the backup singers Christopher Hitchens smoking a cigar?)

G said...

You are absolutely correct about wanting to keep the government out of religion. In fact, that is exactly the issue TJ was addressing when he mentioned the "wall of separation" in one of his letters. At the same time, all of our rights (including religious) have limitations. We all know the example of yelling "fire" in a movie theater not being covered by freedom of speech. In the same way, you couldn't come up with a religion that involves blatantly illegal activity (e.g. human sacrifice) and expect to be covered by the constitution.

I think you are overstating the view that most Christians have toward government. I understand that there are some who would like to see the government impose biblical law upon the nation. But they are a small minority. (On a side note, that view usually comes from a specific theological position that is not espoused by most of the church today).

For the most part, Christians are not so much concerned that the government is not "Christian," but with the push to eliminate even the slightest form of religious expression in the public arena (e.g. nativity scenes on public property, the word "God" on our currency, etc.). We basically see it as the difference between EXPRESSION of religion (which the constitution does NOT forbid) and ESTABLISHMENT of religion (which is clearly forbidden, and rightfully so).

I don't know of any instances where there is even a nominal push to institute religous dogma as federal law. I understand that there are various issues that are heavily emphasized by politically active Christians (e.g definition of marriage, abortion, etc.). But those issues are NOT religious dogma. There are many Christians on both sides of those issues, just as there are many non-Christians on both sides.


g, I have a name for you, Mike Huckabee. Nuff, said.

coreydbarbarian said...

awww, cmon csm, that was quality stuff! shiny, glossy, pretty stuff.

i think it was the background singers and characters that made this video above average. and while you and i might quibble with the actual substance of the video, they captured the post-modern, angst-ridden, eternally skeptical attitudes of society perfectly. imo

hi g!
very nice 2 hear from you again!

a few comments?
you said, "...all of our rights (including religious) have limitations."
-- in my version of this argument, the only limit on individual rights is that the practice of said rights must not infringe upon the rights of other individuals.

and you spoke of: "...the push to eliminate even the slightest form of religious expression in the public arena (e.g. nativity scenes on public property, the word "God" on our currency, etc.). We basically see it as the difference between EXPRESSION of religion... and ESTABLISHMENT of religion..."

--it's not so much religious expression in the public forum that offends people, g.
imo, it is expression by the government that offends.

individual religious expression is fully protected; government expression is prohibited. individuals, and groups of individuals, can express away 2 their heart's content. but when government starts 2 make expressions of faith, that, by definition, is an establishment of religion. imo.

csm said...

Hey, g, glad you're back. You always bring a touch of sanity from the christian perspective to our discussions here.

I do, however, agree with CoreyD that expression of religion eminating from our/my government is equally as problematic. I enthusiastically embrace and support your ability to praise your god in whatever manner you see fit (for the most part). But the examples of governmental intrusion you cite (god on our cash, nativity scenes on gov property), I have problems with. Are they the big problems of the day? No. But they are still problematic.

And CoreyD, I curse you because I cannot get that damn Dick to the Dawk to the Phd out of my fucking head!

G said...


Huckabee is a perfect example. I agree that he was using a lot of hot button issues for Christians and wearing his Christianity on his sleeve during the campaign. But as far as I remember, I don't think he was proposing to mandate any Christian dogma. But in any case, the last I recall, he was getting his rear-end handed to him by a candidate who was far from ever being a political juggernaut until this year.


I understand your point of view... very libertarian. I don't know that the government would agree with you, but that's beside the point. To a degree, I agree with you about rights not infringing upon the rights of others. But it's important to remember that the constitution doesn't provide us with the right to not be offended. I certainly am not in favor of going around offending people. But it is an issue of civility, not constitutional protections.

The problem that I see these days is that the line between acceptable and unacceptable religious expression has actually been moved to infringe on the personal rights of some (i.e. government employees). I agree that the government shouldn't be getting involved in religion, but the pendulum has swung all the way to government employees. The argument is that they are representatives of the government, so they shouldn't be allowed any religious expression during their time "on the clock." So all of a sudden, there is a problem with a judge that wants to put the 10 commandments on his wall, or a teacher that wants to wear a cross, etc. I believe that it has actually become an infringement on the individual rights of people who happen to be paid by a government agency.

To me (and this is just opinion), people have become so concerned about the "establishment" of religion that is forbidden in the constitution that they have forgotten the prohibition against the "free exercise" of it, using one part of an amendment to trample on another part of the same.

When it comes to something like "In God We Trust" on the money (and I really couldn't care less what the money says, if they would just get it's value stabilized), I really think the constitutional argument is a tenuous one. The word "God," while offensive to some, is NOT an establishment of religion. It is a generic term used by most religions of the world.

We really can't decide these issues based on whether someone is offended. If that becomes our determinant, then it will inevitably lead to the total elimination of our freedoms.


I understand your point of view. But I personally see a significant difference between "expression" and "establishment." I know that I have a pretty strict interpretation of the amendment, but you can usually find me on that side of constitutional issues.

Ceroill said...

Welcome back, g, good to have you around again.



Lest you forget, Mr. Huckabee is on record as stating he would be in favor of our country's laws to be more in line with "divine"(Christian) law. This puts him squarely in the "Christian Nation" camp and is inherently unConstitutional.

I will defend unto death anybody's belief about anything, but if someone has the balls to try to stuff Christianity or any other religion down my throat, it will be over my dead body with much carnage in the vicinity. There is nothing more unAmerican I can think of off the top of my head, than to force the citizens of this country into any one belief system no matter how right some of us think it is.

G said...

I'm not going to try to justify any of Huckabee's comments. I have no idea what degree of conformity he was wanting. Technically, laws against theft and murder are in line with biblical law. He seems to have thought that running as a Christian would get him elected.

I think his early popularity was because he was mostly an unknown who did a pretty good job communicating compared to the other Republican candidates. As people started to learn what he was really all about, he started getting pounded by the McCain campaign.

Like I said, there are some people who want to force biblical law on the nation, but they are a minority in Christianity. Maybe Huckabee is like that. But the fact that his message didn't resonate with voters to any significant degree is revealing.


The results may be revealing, but the situation warrants constant vigilance. People like Huckabee and the wish list they bring to the table make them as dangerous to our freedoms as McCarthy in the 50's. It is one thing to disagree with prevailing thought(hey, I should know), but quite another when wanting to side step the Constitution we were given.

I am in complete agreement with you on this type of Christian thought being in the minority, but the fact remains this is also the fastest growing sector of the many faceted "Christian" majority. And I have to excuse myself for my vehemence as being in the small atheist minority; if you weren't ever in the minority, you wouldn't understand, especially when someone running, and getting some votes, wants to change the rules to the advantage one side only. Add to this my general distrust of a strong central government and I'll bet I am sounding a little paranoid right now(phase in Sabbath now).

A simple telling of a candidates faith preference should be all the extent of disclosure one needs to make and use as advertising. I was embarrassed for this country when Mitt had to explain Mormonism to us, but this country makes a career out of not understanding other countries,cultures and religions. We have many more pressing issues which we need to be discussing than what divine entity or lack thereof a candidate enters the ring with.

coreydbarbarian said...

"So all of a sudden, there is a problem with a judge that wants to put the 10 commandments on his wall, or a teacher that wants to wear a cross, etc. I believe that it has actually become an infringement on the individual rights of people who happen to be paid by a government agency."

-- i actually agree with you on this one, g. the judge should be able to hang most anything they would like to on the walls of their chamber (not in the middle of the courthouse though), and the teacher should be able to wear their cross or star of david or whatever.

here's a current example:
student sues school
only in this example it is the student's rights that are being trampled.

lol. sorry 'bout that! i've had 'jumpin jack flash' stuck in my head for 3 days now, so i can sympathize with ya (it's a gas, gas, gas!).

and re: huck

why is it the evangelical crowd always seems 2 overestimate their collective bargaining power, huck included?

Ceroill said...

Corey, as to Huck-Probably because they do wield considerable oomph for their size. I seem to recall their influences being a large part (or at least a significant part) of the growth of the neocon movement of the last couple of decades, including getting dubya elected twice (well, sorta anyway)

coreydbarbarian said...

very true, bob. it's sad, but we're stuck in the middle of a culture war. a small, yet powerful segment of christianity wants very badly 2 return america to the pre-science era.

oh. oh!!
did y'all see/hear/find out?
pbs and nova got the peabody award 4 their "judgement day: intelligent design on trial" documentary!

here is a link.

chapter 11 seems quite relevant 2 our current discussion, but the whole darn thing is great.

did i mention how great it is?
and pbs. and npr. they're great, 2! :)

csm said...

G, I think it is open for interpretation whether or not people rejected Huck because of his views. I think, early on, Huck and Romney split the evangelical vote (at least those evangelicals who vote purely on that basis). If there had been only one candidate or a large consensus for one or the other of the candidates, McCain might not have pulled this one out. But, of course, that is pure conjecture on my part.

I agree with Bawdy about people like Huckabee being very dangerous. (I wasn't embarrassed about Mitt having to explain Mormonism, though. I think it'd be "fun" if every candidate had to actually explain their religious beliefs.)

And many thanks CoreyD for pointing out that link on intelligent design on trial. Good stuff!

Ceroill said...

Recently a I was chatting with a friend who happens to be a Pagan, and she mentioned she had once had a very brief flirtation with politics. I immediately had the image of an openly Pagan senator pushing to have the solstices and equinoxes made official holidays, or a Pagan Speaker of the House ending sessions with "Blessed Be". She found those ideas very amusing. But can you imagine just how much up in arms the "Religious Right" would be about such events?

coreydbarbarian said...

ya know bob, i think it'd be pretty similar to their response 2 wiccans in the army.

i was thinking earlier on about the last time gene and i "discussed" intelligent design.
he seemed very eager 2 distance himself from the term "intelligent design", in much the same way that id proponents had shifted away from the term "creation sciences", itself only a fuzz removed from the original "creationism".

so this had me thinking. then i stumbled upon a few references to a 4th wave, like this one.

so now it makes sense: the creationists have gone underground with their movement. their tactics have shifted 2 a low-profile, almost guerrilla warfare-ish. scary.

but in the long run, stupid. as individual teachers, textbooks, plans and policies draw increasing scrutiny and institutional scorn, their movement dies politically.

and, knowing these folks like i do, it could be one long & ugly death scene, like when konstantin's brother nikolai died in anna karenina. ugg-lee.

coreydbarbarian said...

and just in case ya wanna waste more minutes of your life:

clips from ben stein's expelled.

i wonder what kind of box office this flick's gonna rake in? lends insight, and foreshadows debates 2 come, but it makes me feel icky. ;(

csm said...

Yes, it will indeed be interesting to see what becomes of Stein's upcoming craptacular... were you posting here with us back in August '07, CoreyD, when I brought this up on the post Ben Stein Is A Fool?

Anonymous said...

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.
We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go 'round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth.

Ceroill said...

Wonderful song!