The Episcopal Church leads: 7-22-09
What's ahead/behind in faith: 7-24-09

Why no church-state questions? 7-23-09

I was flying back home the other night and found that on my flight from Dallas someone had left the A section of USA Today in the seat pocket.


Which is where I found this intriguing piece about the fact that in the Sonia Sotomayor (pictured here) confirmation hearings, the issue of church-state separation cases never really came up.

The more I thought about that the more I found it appalling. What were the senators thinking? I hope some of them find a way to dig into that matter before a final confirmation vote.

Church-state separation issues seem constantly to be in the courts, and quite often they show up for resolution in the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a constantly evolving area and it's important to know what prospective justices think about it.

This is all the more true of Sotomayor because, as this Religion News Service piece notes, she seems to be quite unpredictable in this area. Besides that. she doesn't have an extensive record of ruling on cases in this field. I'm certainly not proposing that the Senate use some kind of litmus test on this or any other controversial area but I do think it's worth having nominees to the highest court in the land talk about how they approach making decisions involving church-state separation disputes.

* * *


Speaking of church-state issues, Russia's president has just announced a pilot project that will give students there a choice of whether to take a class in religion or secular ethics. This is a fascinating follow-up to mandatory atheism, though it also looks like a major concession to the Russian Orthodox Church because the religion classes do not include options of other branches of Christianity. Let's keep an eye on where this goes in a year or two.


Will Graham

Bill, what is the point of keeping an eye on what goes on in Russia other than as an example of what not to do?

You are talking about the most murderous state in world history, even worse than Nazi Germany; calling the Russian practice in the twentieth century "mandatory atheism" is putting it too nicely. It was more like "atheism or death".

We have nothing to learn from them, other than, as I said, an example of what not to do.

Will Graham

Famous Atheists versus God...

Hume. God won.
Voltaire God won.
Marx God won.
Nietzsche God won.
Ingersoll God won.
Russell God won.
Lenin God won.
Trotsky God won.
Stalin God won.
Mao God won.
Pol Pot God won.
Sartre God won.
O'Hair God won.
Gould God won.
Sagan God won.
Stein God won.

etc. etc.

Dolores Lear

Church and State.
All down through History, Most Countries had a State Religion.

The Jews had State Religions, along with other State Religions in the Past, in the Mid-East, along with other One God Religions, and Trinity God Religions all over the Planet.

Then the Catholic Religion, after 300, became the State Religion of many countries of Europe and Russia. Protestants Protested.

Protestants left Europe and Started the USA, as a Country Free from a State Religion but Protestantism became the Shadow State Religion.

And today many Right Wing Protestants complain, because Christian Protestant Prayer, Rites. Icons and Holidays has always been the 'Religion of the USA'.

Inequality of all other Religious Citizens and Atheists, had to participate in Christian Government and Public School Events, or not go until recently, when Christian Prayer was not considered the State Prayer.

All of a sudden, there are 5 Catholic Judges on the Supreme Court. Will Judge Sotomayor be number 6?

Will the Catholic Religion become the State Religion of the USA by law? Will Abortion, Gay Marriage, Other Religious and Atheist Citizens, etc., be affected?

Religions of many Man-Made Gods, has been the History of Planet Earth. At least we Know the Catholic and Protestant Gods are Man-Made Religions. And Abraham's descendants made Man-Made Religions also.

Now we have our Home Planet covered in Toxic Pollution, and Nuclear Bombs on Land and Sea, using our Hands to Kill Each Other and our Planet.

When not Killing, Humans keep their hands folded, worshiping all these Gods of our Home Planet. Why?

Should One Planet, have One United Human Society, for All Passengers?


Susan (from yesterday): "Why is it so hard to accept that the Bible was written by individuals who were very much influenced by their own limited perspectives about what was right and normal?"

Because that is not what the Bible says about itself. The Bible says that it is the Word of God. That is what it said in the Old Testament, starting with Moses, and was reaffirmed in the New Testament ("Every little bit of the whole of Scripture is God-breathed" II Timothy 3:16). If what the Bible says about itself is false, then we have no reason to believe anything it says. And Christianity itself is done for, for Jesus is made to be a liar when He talked about the importance of every jot and every tittle of the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament), or when He talked about living on every word that comes from the mouth of God while quoting Old Testament Scripture.


Susan (from yesterday): "It's true that different people feel the Holy Spirit is leading them in different ways."

Not in matters of right and wrong. Yes, He led Peter to stay in Jerusalem and Paul to wander through Europe. Yes, He leads some to be missionaries and some to be a witness in their workplace. But when it comes to issues of right and wrong, the Holy Spirit is unchanging.


Bill, I think it's good that Judge Sotomayer can't be easily pigeonholed (as the article puts it). She looks very carefully at each case.

Will wrote (about Russia), "We have nothing to learn from them, other than, as I said, an example of what not to do."

Gosh, Will, don't you think any part of America's successes has had something to do with the amount of unsettled land there was when the Europeans started coming here? You really should read James A. Michener's "Poland" -- there is so much complexity when trying to figure out why things happen the way they do in various parts of the world (including our own) -- it's really not just a matter of one country being worth learning from and another country only having value in terms of telling you what NOT to do.

Will, I also want to respond to some things you wrote yesterday (I'll break it down into three parts) --

Part 1: "Susan, I don't know what you are going on about. From what I have heard, you think we are all going to end up in the same place anyway."

Is life to you all about where you are going to "end up?" If so then I guess it is hard for you to understand me (a Christian Universalist) caring about things happening today. Maybe for you, whatever is happening today only matters in terms of how it affects people's eternal salvation? So since I think we're all saved, you are wondering why should I care? (Continued)


(Continued) I care because this present moment matters. What is the future but all of the present moments that we will be enjoying after today?

Will wrote, "So who cares? We are never all going to agree on stuff anyway!"

And isn't it wonderful, Will?! No matter how many discussions we all have, there are always going to be variances of opinion because we're not the same. Each person will ever be bringing new perspectives. Perspectives will interact, and sometimes synthesize to the point where entirely new concepts are born. But it will NEVER be a case of everyone here becoming a replica of me, or you, or anyone else here.

It's like the beauty of Evolution -- the strength is in continued diversification, and in that little smidgen of what's considered "errors" in copying -- NOT in uniformity. My goal is not to reach agreement with everyone but to INTERACT -- and yes we need to find enough common ground to interact -- but since a pumpkin plant and a tomato plant and a corn plant can share the same patch of earth, and possibly even benefit one another in ways we can't imagine, then so can all of us.

Will wrote, "Everyone is saved, so have a ball!"

Yes, yes, YES! This is one of those rare moments when I can totally agree with something you've said. And I AM having a ball here ... discussion is one of my favorite things in life, and coming here actually improves my real life relationships, because I can get many of my thoughts out online and thus be a better listener and not such a bore in real life. Thanks again for listening, guys!


Susan: "Will wrote, 'Everyone is saved, so have a ball!' Yes, yes, YES! This is one of those rare moments when I can totally agree with something you've said."

So does that mean you were being sarcastic, too? :)

“Hume. God won.
Voltaire God won.
Marx God won.
Nietzsche God won.
Ingersoll God won.
Russell God won.
Lenin G…..”

What are you babbling about?

Precaher DJ. How convenient the bible praises itself. And that people are not perfect when it comes to re-telling a story. Now that is a big surprise. You want prophesies to come true?- write a follow up story – the new testament. This so easy to see. Why are so many blind to it. Oh, well, what can I say when people abide by such rules as: don’t question god/bible just believe and trust, and you can’t know the mind of god. Really? Then why do so many pretend to know what god knows. The bible indeed was written by people…and made up the god(s) we read about.

Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole

I was lucky last night. I was able to listen to a missionary say he was not a missionary and yet a missionary. He spoke to about a 100 people and explained he was in a foreign country that didn’t allow missionaries. So he went there as a teacher. Now if they caught him preaching jesus he would be kicked out of this country, never to return. So the years he is there he is lying. Was jesus ‘for’ lying? Jesus supposedly said not to spread the word and then in another part of the perfect bible he says spread the word. Which is it?

All this for what? To save a few souls. He seemed a bit uncomfortable.

Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole


From yesterday -- Dolores, thanks for the interesting link about Adam's nipples! I was actually joking when I said I wanted to google that, but it has been no end of interesting for me to ponder this, ever since becoming a mother 9 years ago. Men have all the equipment necessary to make milk -- all they lack is the hormonal mix you get from carrying a pregnancy and giving birth, which stimulates lactation.

Who knows, maybe someday scientists will figure out a way that men can share in all this wonderful stuff (childbirth, breastfeeding, the whole works). I'll admit that here my selfish gene kicks in, because I kind of like it just being "our" thing, I love the feeling of being so indispensable in those early years (LOL, I wonder what Lucy of the Mr. Deity vidoes would make of this: I'm referring to the "helpmeet" video). But I think I just need to grow up and learn to share, as the guys are learning to do so well.

PreacherDJ, when reading books besides the Bible, haven't you ever found rich truths that totally resounded with your whole being, even while you knew the book was written by another human like you? And even while reading other things in the book that had you thinking, "This author doesn't have a CLUE when it comes to THAT issue!" -- can't you still nevertheless take the truth and let it make you a better person, without having to swallow the entire book whole?

When you say you can't accept that the Bible was influenced by the limited perspectives of the people writing, "Because that is not what the Bible says about itself" -- uhm, how would you expect them to know the extent of their own limitations? 50 years ago, could the average person have imagined the ways the internet would change our lives and replace many other forms of communication? Would it have occured to them that one day we'd be using a whole lot less paper and stamps, for example?

Will Graham

Like I said, Susan, I am not sure what you are going on about since you think everyone is saved.

As for those present moments you were talking about a little while ago, they are already gone forever. On the other hand, if those present moments are so darned important, then it seems a great crime to deprive an unborn human ALL of their "present moments."

Of course, there is a downside. If you are wrong, you have assumed a terrible responsibility for misleadingly giving people a false sense of security.

And, after all, you have already admitted that you could be wrong about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING!

(By the way, Susan, what gives you the idea that "what resounds your whole being" is any guideline to truth?)

Will Graham

Cole, the missionary had a right to protect himself by non violent means from people who could very well have killed him.

Why are you guys such cowards? You don't even have the guts to say where your bible studies are, but instead try to lead people on wild goose chases first saying to be a given parking lot at 5:30, then e mailing and saying you can't be there so lets do it next week, and then e mailing that you can be there after all and then crying like a stuck pig if someone can't make the deadline that YOU HAVE ALREADY CHANGED TWICE.

Look wimpy man, if you have some to say, say it.

Will Graham

And Susan, your thing about getting men on the breastfeeding gig is HILARIOUS!

But they need to remember one thing

Babies come first in any bio ethics debate!

Of course, you could be wrong about that too.


Will wrote: "Like I said, Susan, I am not sure what you are going on about since you think everyone is saved."

Me: Yes, I guess you really can't wrap your mind around the fact that for me discussion, interaction, and intermingling of ideas is a worthwhile goal in and of itself.

Will: "As for those present moments you were talking about a little while ago, they are already gone forever."

Me: And yet because some thoughts got recorded, we are discussing them now in this present moment, which of course is already passing. The moments pass and yet the discussion can continue, for as long as there are any people wanting to discuss.

Will: "On the other hand, if those moments are so darned important, then it seems a great crime to deprive an unborn human ALL of their 'present moments.'"

Me: Well, then, lets get busy making the world a place where more people can experience real love and joy in the present moment -- and I think we will see a reduction in abortions.

Will: "Of course, there is a downside. If you are wrong, you are assuming a terrible responsibility for misleadingly giving people a false sense of security.

"And, after all, you have already admitted that you could be wrong about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING!"

Me: And when someone admits they might be wrong, are those listening more likely to blindly follow or use their own brains? I don't want a "following" -- I want thinking friends to talk with! (Continued)


(Continued) Will wrote, "(By the way, Susan, what gives you the idea that 'what resounds with your whole being' is any guideline to truth?)"

Will, I'd be interested to know why you think this ISN'T useful as a guideline to truth? Please note that by "whole being" I don't just mean emotion and physical sensation: I'm also including intellect, knowledge, conscience, and spirituality.

When I was a teen going to Christian youth groups, there was much discussion about not just following our feelings. I think there was a popular phrase -- "If it feels good, do it!" -- and youth leaders wanted to counter that trend by cautioning kids against getting into situations where their physical urges and emotions might over-rule their minds and the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Overall I think this is sound advice. It doesn't seem like a good idea for teens to just throw out knowledge (or not to pursue it in the first place) and just do whatever their bodies feel like doing in the moment. It's not a good idea for adults to do that either.

That's why I think we should never forget the wholeness of who we are. I could experience some momentary pleasure living out some fantasy that would probably feel good in the moment -- but how would I feel afterwards? How would it affect the things that are most important to me in life? After all, I am more than just my sensual urges.

Unfortunately, I think all the religious emphasis on not trusting our feelings, perceptions, etcetera, can sometimes lead people to not even feel they can trust themselves at all. They better just "play it safe" and do everything "according to the manual." It's really not a fate worse than death to screw up ... that doesn't mean it's without consequences, just that it really can be okay if you learn from it and move forward.

Will Graham

Sounds great Susan.

After all, every one will be OK whether they move forward or not, whether they learn from it or not, whether they hurt other people or not, etc.

And why not live out your fantasies to do what feels good at the moment? Since you ask, "how would I feel afterwards?" the hedonist might respond, "I feel great!"

Since you think the present moment is what counts...opps, that present moment has passed as you will.

You have no problem.

If you're right. The trouble is, although you SAY you could be wrong about anything and everything, I don't think you really beleive that. You think your position is right and that's it.

Red Biddy

Regarding Bill's concern that church-state seperation never really came up in the confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayer, American Humanists gave it a try by a letter to Senator Leahy before the hearings began :

An opinion by Howard Fineman in Newsweek (July 22) states "Let's end confirmation hearings". I'm wondering if he isn't right ! All Sotomayer droned on about in answer to the Senate's questions was precident, precident, precident - which doesn't tell anyone very much about her !
Howard Fineman wrote " All nominees pledge allegiance to the principle of "stare decisi" (lawyer talk for legal precedent) but constitutional law evolves in response to new facts and social conditions."
There wasn't much of anything discussed in those hearings, Bill, in fact they were down right boring! Somebody did ask her about Roe vs Wade and she answered by quoting the Privacy Amendment. It was a kind of "let's not go there" response !

Red Biddy

It is certainly an interesting development in Russia that students are going to be allowed to study their country's religions in school.
I noticed that no Protestant religion was on the list ! I guess Russia has yet to have a Reformation ! Prior to the overthrow of the Czar there was no other religion practised in Russia except Orthodox. They were and are of course reputedly the most anti-semitic people in the world !
I think the Russian communist mandatory atheism was largely based in the hatred of Russian Orthodoxy which was perceived as the Czar's religion.
It was noticeable that in Poland, which was 99% Roman Catholic, that under the communist government there they maintained a hands off approach of governance towards the church there. I was in Poland in 1961, (on a working trip) and couldn't help noticing in Warsaw that the churches were being rebuilt all over the city. Major construction was going on despite the fact that the Poles at the time were desperately short of residential accomodation. Some of the friends I made there were grumbling about this - a lot !
That churches were being built before needed apartment buildings were a clear indication that the government, communist though it was supposed to be was putting the church before the needs of its citizens.


Biddy wrote>>>>>>>>>That churches were being built before needed apartment buildings were a clear indication that the government, communist though it was supposed to be was putting the church before the needs of its citizens.


Communists in Poland were not stupid, they were clinging to power of "ideological delusion" using anther "delusion" - religion.

How great it is to use "opium of the people" (religion) to create another "opium of the people" - utopia of communism?

Two wrongs make it even wronger :o(

Red Biddy

Yes, I agree...the Communists in Poland were certainly not stupid, but I think they were well aware that intense as was the hatred of most Poles for the Russia, (only exceeded by their hatred of Germany) they could never exercise any real control over the population if they laid a finger on the Church to which so many belonged. I think it much more of a political move than replacing one "delusion" with another. The church held the population together - communist ideology was never going to do it. Not in that country.

adam harrison

Wow Red Biddy, you have sure been around! Notice how whatever comes up, Biddy has been there? She was in the town with the stain glassed window billed talked of, she claims to have been in Poland (though her story is faked, they weren't building churches like she says in 1961 like she claims) and she has had husbands with Michael Jackson skin disease, Jewish husbands (two) a Methodist Preacher name it, Biddy has been there, had it, or done it! LOL!

As to mandatory atheism being based on hatred of Orthodoxy...balderdash. It was based on the atheist Marx's Dialectical Materialism.

And funny how, if Orthodoxy was so hated, 70 years of propaganda, torture, and MURDER COULDN'T STOP IT!

adam harrison

That old Supreme Court PRECEDENT is sure good stuff!

Blacks being three fifths of a man (Dred Scott) and Forced Sterilization of the UNFIT (Buck v. Bell) and all.

Oh well, don't worry! Susan assures us we will all be saved in the end.

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