Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Petitions, Signs, and Religious Morality

E Pluribus Unum Petition

The E Pluribus Unum petition is at 150 names.

I do not see this petition as something that will move Congress to act - at least not in the near future. That will require a lot of work to change public attitudes to the point that a legislator can vote on this issue without losing his or her job. However, signing the petition displays support for the effort of doing that work. It says that the goal is worthwhile.

Another California Town Considers "In God We Trust"

Another California town, Rancho Santa Margarita, is considering displaying the motto "In God We Trust" in city hall.

(See: Orange County Regiter, Rancho officials to discuss 'In God We Trust' motto)

I've posted my comment in the newspaper.

It is also possible to contact the City Council for the city of Rancho Santa Margarita through their Web Site.

Moral Argument Used Against Naval Academy

A story that has hit several large papers, such as the Washington Post and USA Today, concerns a letter from the ACLU to the Naval Academy calling for it to end its noontime prayer. The ACLU is grounding its letter on a 2003 Appeals Court ruling against the Virginia Military Institute that says that these types of exercises coerce individuals into participating in a religious service.

(Note: There is an excellent chance that Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas, would not agree that this counts as coercion, if the case were to go to the Supreme Court. Coercion requires threats of direct punishment, not merely social pressure.)

What pleases me about this article is that it mentions not only the standard legal arguments - the type that have gotten so many people angry at the law to the degree that the law is at risk of being changed.

I was, I must admit, pleased that the Navy Times was willing to cover one of the moral arguments that I could not find mentioned in the civilian press.

Pheneger said one of the Navy’s rationales for having noontime prayer — that it helps develop moral character — is wrong because it implies that those who are atheist or agnostic, or those who belong to minority religious faiths, have less capacity for moral growth.

“Where you develop your character is individual,” he said. “To say you can’t develop character traits outside of a religious context is ridiculous.”

(See: Navy Times, ACLU calls for USNA to end lunchtime prayer)

The statement is actually more than ridiculous. It is bigoted. It is one of the defining characteristics of prejudice that the bigot brands his victims as morally inferior. He asserts that his group (e.g., white people, people who accept the right religion) are inherently morally superior to the target group.

This rationale that links religion to morality - and the lack of religion to immorality - demonstrates bigotry against the non-religious. It represents the speaker's decision to prejudge religious people as morally superior to his target group. It does so by assuming that connection to religion is a part of morality - and it is something the atheist does not have.

(This is not to say that these people would assert that atheists can't be moral. They may assert that atheists can be moral, but only to the degree that they borrow their morality from Christians.

When, in fact, Christians borrow their money from secularists. Since there is no God - all of the morality that you find in the Bible is man-made morality that is assigned to God. Changes in secular ethics find themselves into religious ethics by theists twisting and distorting scripture to match their preconceived notions of right and wrong. There is as much good or evil in scripture as the reader wishes to find and read into it.

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