Notes From Babel

Which, Not Whether, Religion

with 2 comments

President Obama is on record for disclaiming America as a “Christian nation,” claiming that “we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.” This is nonsense.

Being “bound by ideals and a set of values” untethered to any systematic moral framework is going to involve a very fluid and expedient understanding of those ideals and values. Systematic theology (i.e., religion) provides a framework in which such ideals and values can exist in a non-arbitrary fashion, in which their respective priorities can be assessed, and in which practical application can be worked out. The ideals and values without the originating framework will last only so long as they are expedient to some other end. That ad hoc system of reorienting and reprioritizing the ideals and values forms the basis of a new religion, to the chagrin of contemporary disestablishmentarians. Rinse and repeat.

The question is always what our religion is, not whether we have one.


Written by Tim Kowal

April 7, 2009 at 5:08 am

Posted in Religion

2 Responses

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  1. Just because our forefathers happened to be Christian does not make us a Christian nation. They were also slave owners and exclusively (mostly) white males. Religion is something that each of us should respect and keep to ourselves. I respect each person’s right to believe whatever they wish, but when you suggest that the country I love and support is “Christian” rather than pluralistic with a decided Christian bent, I take exception.

    You have the right to point your finger but when you stick it in my eye I have the right to react.

    See you at work!


    April 8, 2009 at 3:10 am

  2. What I consider “nonsense” is not particularly the disclaiming of Christianity (although that is probably the closest approximation of the framers’ philosophical framework). What is nonsense is the idea that we can have a “set of principles” without a system of thought from which such principles derive intelligibility. We cannot claim the fruit while disclaiming the tree.

    For example, nowhere does our Constitution expressly state that laws that are arbitrary or capricious are invalid on that basis. But it does not need to, because such rules are already mandated by our intellectual presuppositions – which posit an ordered universe where the future resembles the past, and which embrace causality and eschew randomness. This is precisely what the modern battle with postmodernism is: a clash of worldviews between an objective worldview that assumes order and objective meanings of words and values, and a fluid worldview in which words are vessels to be emptied and filled anew as often as deemed expedient.

    Incidentally, slavery was prevalent across the globe – it was not unique to our white male founders. What is unique is the manner in which the United States rid itself of the institution – in violent throes that bespeak the forcefulness of this country’s sense of moral compunction.

    Tim Kowal

    April 9, 2009 at 3:56 am

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